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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (July 30, 1999 - Asia Pulse/Asia Times)---The chief economic adviser to former Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Bill Skate has been charged with misappropriation of funds and obtaining money under false pretences.

The adviser, Dr. Pirouz Hamidian-Rad, 47, was arrested Wednesday after a raid on his office and residence at a plush Port Moresby hotel. The police fraud squad seized files, computers and office equipment from Hamidian-Rad's company, Ikub Consulting.

Hamidian-Rad is charged with misappropriating 32,000 kina (US$ 12,374) and obtaining K 84,000 through false pretences. Police commissioner John Wakon has said he expects more charges to be laid against Hamidian-Rad. The current charges were laid in relation to payments allegedly made to one of Hamidian-Rad's employees.

Hamidian-Rad, an Iranian who was formerly employed by the World Bank, has been a controversial figure since he was hired by Skate in June last year. Reportedly paid K 7 million (US$ 2.71 million) so far, he has been involved in PNG's so-far unsuccessful attempts to secure badly needed funds from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and a failed bid to raise US$ 250 million in a Eurobond issue.

Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta has said the government will no longer employ Hamidian-Rad and wanted to investigate the terms of his engagement.

Hamidian-Rad has twice been stopped from leaving PNG in the past week after he was ordered not to travel overseas. On Saturday, he was hauled off an Air Niugini plane about to fly to Singapore.

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