PAPUA NEW GUINEA COURT CLEARS HAMIDIAN-RAD

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By Moresi Ruahma'a

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (September 30, 1999 – The National)---Chief economic advisor to the former Government, Dr. Pirouz Hamidian-Rad, has been cleared of criminal charges brought against him on the grounds of insufficient evidence.

The Waigani Committal Court yesterday discharged Dr. Hamidian-Rad after finding that he did not commit any of the offences with which he had been charged.

Dr. Hamidian-Rad was charged by police on counts of misappropriation and false pretences, allegedly committed between July 28, 1998 and March 31, 1999.

"There is no prima-facie evidence that there was dishonesty or that the defendant had the intention to defraud the Independent State of Papua New Guinea. Accordingly, both charges are dismissed and the defendant is discharged forthwith. His bail must be reimbursed,'' ruled Chief Magistrate George Manuhu.

It was submitted earlier in court by the police prosecution that the defendant had dishonestly applied to his own use the sum of K 32,000 from the Department of Treasury and Corporate Affairs by false pretence.

(NOTE: Kina 2.9239 = US$ 1.00 on September 30, 1999)

The charge arose from the payment by the department of a sum of K84,000 as a fee for consultant Cletus Ngaffkin.

Mr. Ngaffkin was then an employee of Ikub Consultancy Pty., Ltd, owned by Dr. Hamidian-Rad.

Relying on a statement by Mr. Ngaffkin, the prosecution claimed that the consultant received only K60,000, a shortfall of K24,000. The court was further told that the defendant only paid Mr. Ngaffkin K52,000, withholding K8,000 for utilities, resulting in the claim of misappropriation of K32,000.

It was also alleged that when executing Mr. Ngaffkin's employment contract, the defendant tried to offer inducements to the then Secretary for the Department of Treasury and Corporate Affairs, Morea Vele.

But Chief Magistrate Manuhu further ruled that there was no evidence that the defendant had sought to compromise the interests of the State, nor that he had asked anyone to breach any law.

"Consequently, any injury caused to the State was clearly self-inflicted. There is prima-facie evidence that everyone succumbed to the political will regardless,'' said Mr. Manuhu in his decision.

The court noted that both Secretary Vele and then Treasury and Finance Minister Iairo Lasaro had failed to make themselves available to assist the Court by giving evidence.

This was despite their being the two persons who actually executed the original agreement and their being in a perfect position to raise the issue of the likelihood of a breach of law.

The court also ruled that in the letter of proposals for the engagement of Mr. Ngaffkin, there was potential for non-compliance with financial management rules.

But because Mr. Vele and Mr. Lasaro failed to terminate the proposed agreement there and then, the court ruled that the defendant could not be held criminally responsible for those acts and omissions.

"Likewise, the defendant cannot be criminally liable for the subsequent questionable deliberation by the Tenders Board on November 24, 1998 resulting in the issuing of a Certificate of Inexpediency for the engagement of Mr. Ngaffkin, amongst others.'' said Mr. Manuhu.

Following the decision, Dr. Hamidian-Rad, while expressing his belief that justice had finally been done, told reporters that charges would be laid against Mr. Ngaffkin alleging perjury.

Dr. Hamidian-Rad added that all his contracts were legally executed and went through the proper authorities.

Police prosecutor Thomas Eluh said that this was not the end of the case, adding that when police made additional evidence available they would revive the case.

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

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