POLICE CLEAR PNG PM SKATE AND POLICE COMMISSIONER PELIKA

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By Phil Yombon

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (February 2, 1998 - Niuswire/The National/Map)---Prime Minister Bill Skate and Police Minister Thomas Pelika have been cleared of bribery allegations raised in the Mujo Sefa videotapes aired by the Australian television network ABC last November, but Mr. Sefa has released more damning tapes to the media, The National reports.

As Police Commissioner Peter Aigilo announced the conclusion of the five-week police investigation here on Friday, Mr. Sefa, a former aide to Mr. Skate now in Melbourne, released the damning tapes, this time to The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.

The Herald reported in its Saturday edition that the unpublished tapes it obtained showed Mr. Skate telling Mr. Sefa to use the PM's authority to arrange deals to "help your family and your business."

The Prime Minister's Office was aware of the Herald report by correspondent Lindsay Murdoch but was not available for comment last night.

Police Commissioner Agilio told the media on Friday that the investigation had come to a halt because of Mr. Sefa's refusal to cooperate with the police.

He said in a statement the suspension of the investigation "should now restore full confidence" in the integrity of Mr. Skate and other members of his Government.

Mr. Aigilo said Assistant Commissioner John Toguata interviewed Mr. Sefa over the tapes in Melbourne in December and concluded that as far as the allegations were concerned, Mr. Skate and Mr. Pelika were cleared unless there was fresh evidence in the future.

"I believe in transparency, and Mr. Toguata is a man of strong Christian principles, and I am satisfied that the investigation was done thoroughly," Mr. Aigilo said.

Mr. Toguata said Mr. Sefa failed to provide copies of the tapes, written affidavits, invoices, dockets, and receipts to verify his claims of bribery and corruption.

Just viewing the tapes for four hours was not sufficient, said Mr. Toguata, adding that police needed concrete evidence to lay charges.

Mr. Toguata said he interviewed Mr. Sefa who promised to make copies of the tapes and other documents available but failed to do so.

Port Moresby detectives had been questioned about the murder allegations on the tapes and so far "nothing has pinpointed any particular person or body," Mr. Toguata said.

He also said he had declined a recent offer by Mr. Sefa to fly to Melbourne to collect the videotapes and affidavit.

Mr. Skate, who had strongly denied the allegations, said Mr. Sefa's refusal to cooperate raised questions about his credibility.

He said he had made repeated requests through his lawyers for Mr. Sefa and the ABC to hand over videotapes so he could comment on "the baseless allegations."

"It is my view that Sefa has a personal vendetta against me," Mr. Skate said in a statement.

In Australia, Mr. Sefa said the investigation had been halted by political interference.

He said Mr. Toguata had agreed to travel to Melbourne last Tuesday to pick up the tapes and documents but had been refused funding by senior police.

Both Mr. Toguata and Mr. Aigilo denied there had been any political pressure to halt the investigation.

Mr. Sefa also told The Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday that he had offered Mr. Toguata all the tapes but he refused to take them back to PNG, saying they might get into the wrong hands.

The videotapes, which were secretly filmed by Mr. Sefa in his Port Moresby office, showed Mr. Skate allegedly authorizing bribes for journalists and politicians. The bribes were allegedly to be paid through Mr. Pelika.

The tapes screened by ABC television in November also showed Mr. Skate boasting he was the godfather of Port Moresby's criminal gangs and had authorized a man's execution.

Title -- 1141 POLITICS: Police clear PM, Pelika Date -- 2 February 1998 Byline -- Phil Yombon Origin -- Niuswire Source -- The National (PNG), 2/2/98 Copyright -- The National Status -- Unabridged

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