PNG's Paraka Lawyers challenges legality of Task Force Sweep
Court action by law firm seeks accuses anti-corruption team scrutinising it of being unlawful and interferring with the work of police.
Papua New Guinea's National Court is expected to decide on Thursday whether to hear several applications by Paul Paraka Lawyers to stop the anti-corruption team Task Force Sweep from carrying out investigations into the law firm.
In one of several high-profile investigations it is conducting, Task Force Sweep is probing allegations that the law firm received illegal payments from the Finance Department.
Johnny Blades asked our correspondent Todagia Kelola about the action by Paul Paraka Lawyers.
TODAGIA KELOLA: Mr Paraka has gone to court to try to question the powers of the Task Force Sweep team, alleging that the manner in which the task force team is operating is not in line with the constitution. It's unlawful and contrary to the purposes that the National Executive Council made in appointing them to carry out this task. Yesterday was this argument basically whether the court will allow Mr Paraka's application to be fully aired in the national court. So when they went to court, Ian Molloy, who is acting on behalf of Mr Paraka, submitted in court, questioning the conduct of the Sweep team and the manner in which they were their operations inside were established. Mr Molloy submitted that the conduct of the Sweep team could be unlawful and contrary to its purposes as it has been interfering with the work of police and other statutory bodies. He also submitted that the Sweep team was not set up through the formal legislation process, but through a decision by the National Executive Council.
JOHNNY BLADES: So is there a bit of a grey area over this that the police link within Task Force Sweep's work?
TODAGIA KELOLA: Yes, that's basically what Mr Paraka's lawyers are arguing through the courts. Molloy also stated that the chairman, Sam Cohen, has been leading and giving direction to police officers, which is like interfering with the work of police. A police officer has his own constitutional powers and he reports to the police commissioner and no-one else. But in this case Mr Paraka is alleging that Mr Cohen is acting like a police commissioner by giving directions and instructions to police officers which are not established through the legislative processes.
JOHNNY BLADES: How far through is the investigation of Paraka Lawyers?
TODAGIA KELOLA: The investigations are still in the preliminary stages. Task Force Sweep has got some search warrants from the national court to obtain Mr Paraka's bank accounts for their investigations. It's still in its preliminary stages.
Meanwhile, the lawyer for Task Force Sweep says the National Executive Council appointed the team as a multi-agency organisation, comprising professionals from various agencies who are engaged to carry out investigations in the fight against corruption in the country.
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