By Alice Osii
THE legal officer of the Department of Agriculture and Livestock (DAL) has appeared in court over allegations of false pretense.
Francis Tavatuna, from Yawakaka in Rabaul, East New Britain, has been charged with one count of obtaining employment by means of false pretense.
He appeared for mention at the Committal Court in Waigani last week.
Magistrate Cosmas Bidar extended the bail and adjourned the case to July 27 for the prosecution to respond to an application filed by Tavatuna.
Police said that on Nov 19, 2009, Tavatuna falsely pretended to be a graduate lawyer from PNG Legal Training Institute (PNGLTI) and was employed as legal officer with DAL.
The report stated that during his contract employment – Nov 14, 2016 to May 14, 2017 – he obtained substantial benefits that were part of his contract of employment.
Police alleged that the photocopied document he produced to obtain the employment was dated Nov 29, 2009.
Nov 29, 2009, was a Saturday.
The date raised reasonable suspicions that the certificate of admission at the institute provided by Tavatuna was forged.
Police said Tavatuna claimed he was a professional lawyer who previously worked with National Judicial Staff Services (NJSS) at the National Court and also with Department of Community Development.
The report also stated that Tavatuna’s discharge of his legal duties was careless and negligent which resulted in him appearing in person at the national court.
The report further stated that then DAL Secretary Dr Vele Ila’ava wrote to the PNG Law Society to confirm and verify whether Tavatuna was a registered lawyer on Jan 22. The society replied and said it had no record of a Francis Tavatuna issued with a lawyer’s practising certificate in its database, the court was told.
Police said that the National and the Supreme Court in Waigani also denied admitting Tavatuna to the bar to practise as a lawyer.
Magistrate Bidar said the case was similar to that of former University of Technology vice-chancellor Dr Albert Schram.
By Alice Osii