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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (November 23, 1999 – The National)---Opposition Leader Bill Skate was arrested and charged on Friday with fraud allegedly involving the stealing and burning of his motor vehicle on August 11, 1990.

He was subjected to normal police procedures of being photographed and fingerprinted before he was released from the Boroko police station on bail of K 1,000 (US$ 352).

His lawyer, Alois Jerewai, said in a short statement on Friday that his client had submitted to a police interview at the headquarters at Konedobu and "has fully cooperated in answering all the questions as best as he can recall and maintains his unequivocal innocence."

"He will have his day in court and have this charge cleared," Mr. Jerewai said.

The offence is alleged to have been committed prior to Mr. Skate entering politics.

It was the subject of investigations by a special task force headed by the current Police Commissioner John Wakon when Mr. Skate was the Prime Minister earlier this year.

The investigations subsequently led to the disbanding of the task force and the sacking of Mr. Wakon as NCD police chief.

According to police reports, Mr. Skate had allegedly stolen and burned his motor vehicle nine years ago in a bid to claim the insurance money from the car.

In a statement, the NCD/Central Commander, Chief Superintendent Raphael Huafolo, said Mr. Skate was alleged to have collaborated with criminals to have his vehicle stolen and burned purposely so he could make an insurance claim with South Pacific Insurance (PNG), Limited in 1990.

Police allege that Mr. Skate had claimed that his private car, a Range Rover station wagon, registration number AGH 698, was stolen and burned on August 11, 1990 by criminals armed with a pocket knife, chain and home-made gun at the Sir John Guise Drive while he was in the process of "repairing a tire puncture."

Police further allege that Mr. Skate had fraudulently submitted for and obtained K 27,600 (US$ 9,708) from South Pacific Insurance as a comprehensive insurance payout because they could not salvage the car.

Mr. Skate is due to appear at the Waigani National court at 9.30 a.m. today to answer the charges.

Mr. Huafolo said, "Police tried to investigate the matter last year but the issue became the subject of a major police controversy in 1998 and was shelved temporarily.

"A special investigative task force team investigating a series of prominent crimes implicating high profile citizens tried to investigate the case in 1998 when Mr. Skate was Prime Minister but the investigations were unprecedentedly disrupted at the height of a police controversy.

"The files were shelved when Police Commissioner John Wakon was removed from his former portfolio as NCD/Central commander and subsequently sacked by the former hierarchy."

Mr. Huafolo said the police have re-opened major cases on white-collar crimes, including the alleged fraud case implicating Mr. Skate.

He said many of the cases were temporarily shelved because chief investigator Detective Chief Inspector Joan Dangoume had fallen ill in May and was hospitalized for six months in Australia.

He said police investigators are "now vigorously carrying out investigations into a number of prominent cases like the NCDC accounts, the department of Works and plenty more."

The case now before the court occurred before Mr. Skate was elected to Parliament.

Mr. Skate became a Member of Parliament after the 1992 National Elections, when he won the NCD Regional seat.

In the 1997 National Elections he retained his seat and was supposed to become the Governor but was elected Prime Minster.

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



PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (November 22, 1999 – Radio Australia)---Former Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Bill Skate has appeared in court in Port Moresby on insurance fraud charges.

Radio Australia Pacific correspondent Kevin McQuillan reports that Mr. Skate faces up to 20 years in jail if found guilty.

"Police allege Mr. Skate conspired with criminals to have his vehicle stolen and burned, in order to make an insurance claim.

"They allege Mr. Skate claimed his private car, a Range Rover, was then stolen and burned in August 1990 while he was trying to repair a tire puncture.

"They say he then submitted an insurance claim for and was paid about 20 thousand Australian dollars (US$ 12,746).

"The incident is alleged to have occurred before Mr. Skate was elected to parliament.

"Through his lawyer, Mr. Skate says he is innocent of the charges, and is looking forward to his day in court.

"Mr. Skate appeared in Waigani District Court this morning for mention. A deposition hearing takes place in early December.

"Kevin McQuillan, Radio Australia."

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

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