4 Dec 2018

Court rules former PNG SG can apply for protection in Aust

3:34 pm on 4 December 2018

A court has ruled that Papua New Guinea's former solicitor-general is allowed to apply for a protection visa in Australia.

Wooden gavel and books on wooden table,on brown background

Photo: belchonock/123RF

The ABC reports the Federal Circuit Court of Australia heard that in 2012 Neville Devete made a complaint to PNG's National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Squad in relation to alleged "improper payments" made to PNG's biggest law firm, Paul Paraka Lawyers.

The court heard Mr Devete received a death threat and that he and his family faced intimidation following the complaint.

The court has now just ordered his application for a protection visa be allowed to proceed.

The Anti-Corruption Squad alleged the PNG Government paid about $US22 million to Paul Paraka's firm for inflated or invented legal cases.

The scandal embroiled a number of PNG Government members, including Prime Minister Peter O'Neill, although an arrest warrant against him was quashed late last year.

According to senior police investigator Matthew Damaru, Mr Devete had been due to provide evidence against members of the PNG Government and he was concerned for his safety if he returned.

Mr Devete has been living in Australia since 2013, along with his wife and children, all of whom are seeking protection visas to stay in the country.

The FCC ordered the family be allowed to apply for asylum, after immigration officials and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) initially rejected their claims in 2017.

The ruling does not automatically grant Mr Devete the visas, and the family will need to have their applications for protection visas assessed again by the AAT.

Transparency PNG's Lawrence Stephens says Mr Devete's predicament and the whole saga known locally as 'Paraka gate' is an indication of how far the country has to go in the fight against corruption.

"People do fear for their lives in Papua New Guinea when they are identified as the individuals responsible for naming or shaming or insisting on investigations. And you can sympathise with somebody who feels not just himself but his family to be under threat," Lawrence Stephens said.

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