Australian Greg Sheppard’s law firm suggests charges about PNG mine fund are ‘politically motivated’

Fraud charges laid in opposition to an Australian law firm arrested in Papua New Guinea are “politically motivated” his regulation organization claims, while the trustees of the fund allegedly defrauded of approximately $100m have also arrive to his defence.

a truck driving down a dirt road: Photograph: Lloyd Jones/AAP

© Provided by The Guardian
Photograph: Lloyd Jones/AAP

Greg Sheppard, a former Queensland prosecutor, has been bailed on two expenses of conspiracy and two of false pretence, but will “vigorously defend” the expenses, the Guardian has been advised.

Just about $100m has allegedly been defrauded from a belief fund proven to finance enhancement tasks in communities which have been devastated by significant environmental problems wreaked by the Okay Tedi copper and goldmine.

Related: Papua New Guinea ambulance support offered no income in price range

Law enforcement allege 268m kina was misappropriated from the Western Province People’s Dividends Local community Mine Continuation Agreement (WPPD CMCA) believe in fund and improperly paid into the accounts of the Alright Tedi Fly River Enhancement Foundation (OTFRDF) and Sheppard’s law company.

a truck with a mountain in the background: The Ok Tedi mine in March 2006. Greg Sheppard’s law firm says the fraud charges against him are ‘politically motivated’.

© Photograph: Lloyd Jones/AAP
The Okay Tedi mine in March 2006. Greg Sheppard’s regulation company says the fraud costs against him are ‘politically motivated’.

The belief fund was recognized with revenue from the Okay Tedi mine to fund growth projects, such as streets, educational facilities and wellbeing clinics for villages in Western Province impacted by the mine.

When BHP created Alright Tedi on difficult mountainous terrain in the vicinity of PNG’s border with Indonesia in 1984, it did not construct a tailings dam to store waste from the huge mine, as an alternative pumping sludge straight into the Ok Tedi and Fly rivers.

The tens of millions of tonnes of tailings discharged each and every yr around a long time killed fish and trees, poisoned croplands and drinking drinking water, and devastated the area’s financial state, sparking a significant-scale, and eventually successful, lawsuit by locals in opposition to the miner, and the institution of the believe in fund.

But for years, people of individuals villages, and politicians in Port Moresby, have complained that none of the payment promised has ever attained the communities of Western Province, which remain some of the most impoverished in the place.

The Okay Tedi Fly River Development Foundation (OTFRDF), a not-for-earnings organisation symbolizing the communities influenced by Okay Tedi mine pollution, states the income was legitimately transferred following a 2018 choice from the national courtroom which requested the OTFRDF change the PNG authorities as trustees of the fund.

“The Ok Tedi Fly River Growth Fund mission is to recuperate income that rightfully belongs to the air pollution-impacted folks of the Fly River area and has been misappropriated more than two decades,” a spokesperson for OTFRDF stated.

“The countrywide court appointed OTFRDF as trustee of some of these money … [in] 2018. We have won every scenario that has absent right before the PNG courts, and legally transferred the cash into the trust accounts of our lawyers, both equally in PNG and abroad.

“Attempts to arrest members of our board, which include Edna Oai, follows these thriving legal steps. It is an illegal try by effective forces in PNG to preserve command of funds that rightfully belongs to the air pollution-affected folks of the Fly River region.

A spokesperson for Sheppard’s law organization, Younger and Williams, reported it experienced, at all occasions, acted on the suggestions of OTFRDF “and all transactions have been in accordance with the PNG courtroom order”.

“Young and Williams is the only main regulation firm in PNG that does not get the job done for the government, and as such we are one particular of the only regulation corporations eager to consider lawful action versus the federal government on behalf of clientele. The expenses levelled in opposition to our firm’s lover are politically enthusiastic and follow the PNG government’s failure in the courtroom procedure. The fees will be defended vigorously.”

But in a assertion issued on Thursday, the PNG law enforcement commissioner, David Manning, stated the transactions were being not authorised. He mentioned investigations ended up continuing and “other suspects will also be introduced in for inquiry into their alleged involvement in committing the fraud”.

“The investigation remains ongoing and incorporates a specific forensic investigation into … the expenditure of the 268m kina, which law enforcement will allege were being not authorised by the have faith in … this incorporates forwarding proceeds from the 268m kina to private bank accounts.”

Earlier this month, 45-12 months-outdated Edna Oai, from South Fly district in Western Province, was billed with 15 counts of fake pretence, conspiracy and misappropriation more than the alleged fraud.

Gregory James Sheppard, an Australian citizen, has practised legislation in PNG for much more than three a long time, and is a lover at Port Moresby legislation organization Younger and Williams. Its website states Sheppard “has acted for a range of well known consumers in Papua New Guinea, which includes key ministers, ministers of condition and businessmen.”

Sheppard was also the supervisor of Brisbane indie-pop team, Sheppard, of which three of his children are users. The team experienced a No 1 Australian strike one, Geronimo, and done at the AFL grand ultimate last Oct.