Minister pleads not guilty to charges

National, Normal

The National, Wednesday October 16th, 2013

 WITNESSES were called to give evidence at the National Court in Kokopo yesterday after Pomio MP and former Minister for National Planning Paul Tiensten pleaded not guilty to corruption charges on Monday.

This was in relation to a habilitation program at a plantation in Pomio which covering 1,000 hectares.

A state witness yesterday said the Karlai plantation is owned by the Rabaul Archdiocese and was leased out to Mesu Investment Ltd in 2004.

The witness, who was from Mesu Investment Ltd, told the court that it had to engage a private consultant; John Diugu and Associates, in 2008 to conduct a feasibility study and do a documentation of the Karlai planation to source funds under the National Agriculture Development programme to rehabilitate and convert the plantation to an estate.

He said this was to make it possible for the people to share blocks of land and to use it in a sustainable way.

It was understood that after the feasibility studies and documentation, a submission was made to National Planning through Tiensten and the National Agriculture development program.

The witness told the court that some months later; the company received an acknowledgment letter from the stakeholders regarding the submission.

He claimed that in 2009 he was questioned by the then East New Britain police commander Supt Sylvester Kalaut regarding a payment of K3.4 million to the company, which he denied and further claimed that the company has never received the funds for the purpose of rehabilitating the plantation.

He told the court a visit to the plantation was then made to show the fraud squad that no development has taken place at the plantation.