The National, Monday 29th April 2013
By ELIAS NANAU
DEPUTY Chief Justice Gibbs Salika last Friday granted bail to businessman Eremas Wartoto to remain in Brisbane, Australia, but return to the country on or before his trial date in September.
State prosecutor Raphael Luman had strongly argued against the outcome but Salika said he was satisfied from the evidence provided that Wartoto was suffering from “severe hypertension”.
Salika said health was a matter that could not be overlooked.
“I will grant bail for to the applicant (Wartoto) but I would ask that he be brought here for trial in September,” Salika told Wartoto’s Australian barrister Levente Jurth.
“The people of Papua New Guinea want him to be in the country on or before the trial date.”
Wartoto will be tried in the National Court for two misappropriation charges totalling more than K8 million of the RESI funds to rehabilitate the Kerevat National High School, East New Britain.
Luman said police investigations uncovered that there was little work done.
He told the court that Wartoto also has a string of outstanding criminal matters which included the unlawful K10 million airfreight subsidies which he received under false pretence and established Mangi Long Ples.
“He said he had an airline company but he did not,” Luman said.
State prosecutions had argued that Wartoto was charged on August 2011 for the two misappropriation counts but he “fled the jurisdiction” a month later.
“He didn’t ask the court,” Luman said a statement from police prosecutor Koniu Polon supported that.
Wartoto was on K5,000 district court bail.
Luman had argued that Wartoto did not attend all his committal hearings and the state could not be sure whether he would attend his trial.
He said their investigations uncovered that although Wartoto said he was too ill to attend his court hearings in PNG, he had travelled six times out of Australia to other countries such as Solomon Islands and Fiji.
The state has informed the court that if a warrant of arrest was issued by the court, they would send a formal notice to the Australian government to have Wartoto extradited back to the country.
Wartoto’s barrister Jurth has affirmed to the court that his client would attend the September trial.
Jurth said Wartoto was not evading prosecution.
“Eremas (Wartoto) has serious heart conditions and his condition has deteriorated since last year. Port Moresby lacks medical facilities,” he said.
Salika has advised that Wartoto do his part in seeking medical attention and promoting healthy lifestyle to improve his health so that he could be tried in four months time.
The judge said medical reports from a cardiologist in Brisbane failed to state whether Wartoto was doing anything to improve his health.