19 Jul 2013

PNG anti-corruption taskforce confident of convictions

5:20 pm on 19 July 2013

The head of Papua New Guinea's anti-corruption Investigative Task Force Sweep team says he has not experienced pressure from the prime minister over any cases it is probing.

The taskforce, which was set up by the government in 2011 to investigate and prosecute white collar crimes, especially misuse of public funds in government departments, has initiated 59 arrests although no-one has been convicted.

The Taskforce chairman, Sam Koim, says his job is challenging and difficult but one that must be done.

SAM KOIM: 27 cases have proceeded beyond the committal stage and are at the trial stage. And I expect that most of our cases will give us a good result, meaning most of the persons we've arrested who are now before the courts for trial will be convicted. We are pursuing it, we are working very closely with the office of the public prosecutor to at least expedite it. Some of our cases are going for trial. In fact, there's one trial in Kokopo - that's one of the medical cases. There's another one lined up later this month, I think next week. And Wartoto's and Tiensten's are coming up next month, so we are preparing for all of this.

JOHNNY BLADES: Did you effect the arrest of Tiensten before the election? Is that right?

SK: That's right.

JB: And since he's got back into the government cabinet, do you face any sort of pressure or any moves to quell that particular case?

SK: No, nothing. I have to honestly tell you that I suspect in PNG politics, people pressure the government, especially the prime minister, to do this or that or even try to suppress it, but I have to come to respect the prime minister because he doesn't call me on case-related issues or he doesn't put me under pressure on these things. He keeps his distance and allows us to do our job, so I have not felt any pressure. Of course on the side, yes. One or two people, a number of other people, try to exert some pressure, but from the top - no, I haven't received any yet.

JB: Will you be looking at the Paraka Lawyer's case, which may involve O'Neill?

SK: Yes, we are investigating that case.

JB: O'Neill has been linked to that, hasn't he?

SK: Yes. We are investigating that case, and we are basically at the stage of collecting and collating information. As to the terms of it, I can't tell the media.

JB: Some cases, I suppose, you might come up against stonewalling.

SK: Yeah. That obviously happens in any other country, in any other investigation. And when you come to rock bottom or when you come to situations like this you've got to play some strategy. And sometimes it's not safe to get to the sun so soon, you know? You might get melted. You just have to play a strategy and see how you can best handle those cases.