K13.5m farm fund missing

Main Stories, National

The National, Friday 31st May 2013


BUSINESSMAN Eremas Wartoto faces fraud-related charges involving K13.5 million of public funds allocated to rehabilitate run-down agricultural plantations.

He was arrested and charged on Wednesday in Port Moresby, the day Minister for National Planning and Monitoring Charles Abel tabled a report in Parliament on how a K500 million National Agricultural Development Program  (NADP) fund was used.

Wartoto is already awaiting trial on another case involving the rehabilitation of the Kerevat National High School under the Rehabilitation of Education Sector Infrastructure (RESI) programme, also administered by National Planning and Monitoring Department.

He was arrested by the Task Force Sweep team, interrogated at the Fraud Squad headquarters in Kondedobu and later taken to the Boroko police station to be charged, according to team leader Sam Koim.

The K13.5 million was part of the NADP funds allocated each year since 2008 to rehabilitate rundown agricultural plantations. 

Koim said K6 million was paid by the department in May 2010 to rehabilitate the Lindenhafen coconut plantation at Gasmata in West New Britain.

It was paid a company called Wild Dog Plantations Ltd whose directors were allegedly related to Wartoto. 

The Task Force Sweep team found out that a portion of funds was later transferred to a company owned by Wartoto. 

No rehabilitation work was carried out on the farm.

He said Wartoto was also implicated in a second amount of K7.5 million paid by the department in June 2010 to a company called Metlik Plantations Ltd to rehabilitate the Metlik Plantation at Lombum on the southern tip of New Ireland. 

He added that the Sweep team discovered the money was never used for the rehabilitation of the plantation. 

Koim said the team also came across cases where funds allocated by the Government to build coffee factories were never accounted for.

“The last coffee tree you see is some 100km  away,” he said.