WHAT HAPPENED TO THE HIGH LEVEL INVESTIGATION INTO MONEY LAUNDERING BY YOUNG & WILLIAM LAWYERS?
PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, June 26, 2015) – The Government will set up a high-powered team to investigate comments by two senior lawyers on ways that suspect funds could be transferred to Australia to bribe Papua New Guinean politicians.
It will consist of senior officials from the Bank of PNG, the Justice Department, the Prime Minister’s Department, the Immigration Department, the police and the National Executive Council.
Announcing this yesterday, Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Isaac Lupari said a number of serious claims had been aired on television that related to statements by Greg Sheppard and Harvey Maladina to an undercover operative who filmed the conversations secretly.
"The video has since gone viral on social media leading to rumours and innuendo," he said and indicated that the investigation would begin soon.
He also said that all government cases being handled by Young and Williams, where both Sheppard and Maladina are partners, would be reviewed.
Meanwhile, the Papua New Guinea Law Society described the footage aired by SBS on Tuesday night as so "explicit and graphic" that the appropriate authorities would have to investigate into the firm.
"For lawyers to encourage the flaunting of the laws of this country or a foreign country or engage in conduct likely to invite ridicule and criticism to the profession and practice of law is viewed with disdain and not welcomed by PNGLS," it told The National.
Lupari said in his statement that it was important for Young and Williams to release the names of public figures they represented and transferred funds on behalf of out of the country.
He noted that the firm had, over many years, represented many leaders both in government and opposition.
He said the Prime Minister’s Office had never used the firm, particularly in relation to the transfer of funds.
"It is important that they clearly explain their comments in a most direct and precise way by naming the names of people they have represented."
"This matter has to be looked at by investigative agencies in both Papua New Guinea and Australia."
In view of the seriousness of the claims and the public standing of the two men, Lupari said the investigation would be undertaken promptly.
He also called on the PNG Law Society to investigate and take any action required as the claims made in the video "are also undermining the credibility of the legal fraternity". "The solicitor-general will now review all ongoing government engagements with that firm with a view of transferring these files to other legal firms capable of undertaking this work."
Lupari denied that Maladina’s brother, convicted fraudster Jimmy Maladina, had an ongoing working relationship with the Prime Minister’s Office, or the prime minister.
The footages were believed to have been shot by non-governmental organisation Global Witness in May last year but aired only on Tuesday night.
[PIR editor’s note: The National reported that PNG ‘Opposition leader Don Polye said yesterday that inflated legal fees as a means to transfer funds out of the country or to bribe politicians are only "the tip of the iceberg". ... He suggested that it was so easy to transfer funds out illegally that it was "frightening". ... "It’s only the tip of the iceberg. It’s frightening, especially with the leadership tribunals going on," he told The National yesterday in response to the controversy surrounding lawyers Greg Sheppard and Harvey Maladina. ... "It questions the integrity of the Office of Prime Minister and the integrity of this nation, Parliament, and the people."’]
One showed Sheppard allegedly telling the undercover operative that instead of sending large amounts of money overseas, he should do so in "small dribs and drabs" to avoid attracting attention.
"The days of banging a million bucks into this secret numbered (bank) account in Singapore is over," he was recorded as saying.
Immediately after the broadcast, Sheppard told the media that he had not done anything wrong and that his comments were "general, hypothetical and merely descriptive".
Maladina also denied any wrongdoing. In his footage, Maladina claimed his brother Jimmy was "very close" and "chief adviser" to the prime minister. He said Jimmy could get licences easily.
He told the operative that funds could be transferred through inflated legal invoices and that he had used a queen’s counsel to do so.
"Normally if it’s through the law firms, they don’t usually question that because it’s – especially if it’s a firm that I’m based with, it’s a prestigious firm…," he said.
It is understood that copies of the films have been given to the Australian police.
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PNG the land of elephant and unexpected is fast becoming the land of tolerance for corruption. Seemingly so, Shepherd is continuing to hunt the elephants with teh PMs cases. PNG, forgiveness and forgetful "blong yumi ino liklik" No wonder our Government leaders are so corrupt with absolute impunity.