By CLIFFORD FAIPARIK
SPOT checks by a government team on some business houses in Port Moresby have uncovered a suspected prostitution racket involving foreigners, the abuse of local women workers and filthy kitchens of eateries.
In addition, the team comprising officers from PNG Customs, Labour Department, Investment Promotion Authority, National Capital District Commission, Bank of PNG, Censorship Office and police, discovered poor living conditions of some foreign workers.
The team came across a lodge behind a small canteen which offers a low hourly accommodation rate. The canteen was occupied by male and female foreigners.
The spot checks are part of a government crackdown on foreigners living in PNG illegally and involved in illegal activities.
The IPA and NCDC officers discovered that the foreign businessman did not have a permit to operate the lodge. They suspected that the lodge was being used as a brothel by the female foreigners.
Dino Mas, the deputy Chief Immigration Officer Compliance and Border Division said last Friday that they were discovering more illegal activities as the operation by the government team entered its fifth day.
During the debriefing session after the operations, officers exchanged information and discussed what they had discovered.
The officers, who requested anonymity, revealed a high turnover of local female employees of some foreign-owned stores.
“They were employed for about three months and then replaced by new local females,” one officer said.
“They must be employing new ones regularly to avoid paying income tax and superannuation.
“And they are paid K2.60 per hour instead of the K3.50 which is the minimum wage rate. These females are also encouraged to get credits and they take home about K70 per fortnight.
“The employees work long hours and sleep in rooms behind the stores. And we suspect that these female employees are also being sexually abused.”
Labour officers discovered that some foreigners were being paid cash by their employers to avoid paying tax.
NCDC officers said most kitchens in foreign-owned businesses were filthy.
“In one kitchen, we saw sewerage pipes running through the kitchen. There was a blockade a week ago and human waste spilled into the kitchen,” one officer said.
“Although they have cleaned it up, the stains and the foul smell are still there. And they are still cooking in there.
“In some kitchens we saw food being prepared and cooked in very unhygienic conditions. There were cockroaches running over the flour dough.
“The deep freezers where meat is stored was filthy. We also noticed that the foreigners’ living quarters were very filthy”.
NCDC officers discovered that some of the businesses had no licences to operate. “Some of their licences had already expired a long time ago,” one said.
The IPA officers revealed that some of these foreign-owned business houses were operating in areas restricted for them.
“We register their business to operate in commercial areas. But then they ended up doing business in residential areas and settlements.”
Bank of PNG officers discovered that some of the foreign companies were allegedly avoiding paying taxes to the Internal Revenue Commission.
“Some of these companies are making up to K2 million profit annually. But they were declaring around K500 in tax return. So they avoid paying taxes,” one officer said.
By CLIFFORD FAIPARIK