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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Feb. 14) - An Australian man allegedly involved in several failed business entities in Australia and the Solomon Islands has been found to be illegally conducting business in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea.

Last Thursday, the Autonomous Bougainville Government gave the marching orders for businessman Don Fleming to get out of the region. Fleming was the principal in several alleged failed businesses in Australia, according to documents obtained by the Post-Courier.

In 1989, he was served a Supreme Court summons for PGK2 million [US$623,000] in outstanding debts owed to the Commonwealth Bank in Australia. He came into Bougainville late last month with the mission to buy copra from the people as an agent for Madang-based Coconut Oil Products.

Documents revealed that the Coconut Oil Products had paid his license fee of PGK1000 [US$345] to the Kokonas Indastri Koporesen to purchase copra from the region. The license was not approved, but Fleming moved in to start buying copra.

The Autonomous Bougainville Government stepped in following complaints about his activities, which allegedly involved Fleming putting into the hands of agents several thousands of kina in cash to buy copra from farmers on his behalf. Fleming had applied for a license on January 24 and his license was written on January 25.

In an earlier interview with Radio Bougainville, Fleming had said he wanted to give farmers an alternative and provide competition for other copra buyers. Meanwhile, Autonomous Bougainville Government Deputy Speaker Francisca Semoso has slammed fellow members of the assembly whom she alleged had accepted large sums of money from Fleming to buy copra from farmers. She alleged that members of the public and a number of Autonomous Bougainville Government members were given up to K10,000 [US$3,452] each to help Fleming carry out business, that later was found to be illegal, as he was not licensed to buy copra.

Semoso, who represents the North Bougainville region, called on the members of parliament who had allegedly received money from the so-called copra dealer to come out and clear their names. She also wanted to know if the members of parliament had reported this to the Ombudsman Commission, as required under the law. "Certain members of parliament in the House must think twice before associating themselves with certain people and not support business people unless they know their background," Semoso said.

February 15, 2006

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