POLICE have interviewed an Ok Tedi Fly River Development Foundation (OTFRDF) Ltd director in connection with the theft of K268 million from the Western people’s dividends trust account.
Police have charged the director, 45-year-old woman, with 15 offences;
- FIVE counts of false pretences;
- FIVE counts of conspiracy; and,
- FIVE counts of misappropriation.
The special police forensic criminal investigation team (SPFCIT) is still investigating and more charges may be slapped on the director.
The money is from an account also known as Western people’s dividends community mine continuation (CMCA) trust funds held with Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) Banking Group (Papua New Guinea).
The director, from Western’s South Fly, was escorted from Daru by SPFCIT on Jan 11 and flown to Port Moresby where she was questioned and charged.
Police were not able to interview the director when she was arrested as she was unwell with a pre-existing medical condition.
Police allowed her to seek appropriate medical attention over the last three months.
However, on April 27, she was brought in for questioning.
In the presence of her lawyer from Young & Williams Lawyers, the director remained silent throughout the whole interview session.
She declined to answer any questions.
After the interview, she refused to sign the record of interview.
The woman is one of the three directors of OTFRDF.
The charges against her directly relate to the charges brought upon the managing partners of Young & Williams Lawyers who were similarly arrested and charged by police in relation to the alleged misappropriation and theft of the K268 million from the trust fund. The combined forensic and criminal investigations are ongoing.
More arrests are expected.
The director and three other lawyers have been charged and are now facing court in relation to each of their charges.
The investigation has uncovered that OTFRDF Ltd did not have a physical office situated at its service address in South Fly (Daru), Western, as declared in its records held with the Investment Promotion Authority.
Inquiries revealed that the company had only one employee, a chief executive officer (CEO) whom police believed was residing in Cairns, Australia, where he had stayed for the last several years without returning to PNG.
In the CEO’s absence, SPFCIT had not been able to contact and obtain an appropriate explanation on how OTFRDF expended K268 million belonging to the people of CMCA communities.
Further, police reliably verified that no single development project or programme was funded and implemented from the trust fund.
Police also confirmed that more than K10 million was paid to the CEO and it is believed that a significant portion of the money was expended by him whilst living in Australia.
Police established that from the K268 million, unlawfully withdrawn from the trust account held with ANZ Bank, a total of K52 million were allegedly paid to Young & Williams Lawyers as legal fees into the law firm’s trust account held with Bank South Pacific Ltd.
One of the legal firm’s partners is the sole signatory of the Bank of South Pacific account.
The sole signatory expended K22 million from his law firm’s account and transferred K30 million to Young & Williams Lawyers trust account held with Westpac Bank PNG Ltd.
Investigations are ongoing as to how this occurred.