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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Oct. 11) – Solomon Islands High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea Bernard Ba’atanisia is still in the dark about what happened under his nose - the clandestine escape by fugitive Australian lawyer Julian Moti.

Mr. Ba’atanisia said yesterday that he was taken by surprise when he walked into his office early yesterday and found that the office was unusually empty - that the people who have occupied the office were not there anymore.

He said he had a meeting late Monday with Foreign Affairs Secretary Gabriel Pepson and that the understanding was that there was a court case pending.

When asked if the office DC plate car was used to transport Moti and other officials to the ATW, (as stated in reports) Mr. Ba’atanisia denied outright saying by 12 midnight his vehicle was parked outside his residence.

"I came to work at eight o’clock this morning (yesterday) and saw that the office was empty. I said to myself this is unusual. Then I heard on ABC radio that Moti was already in Munda and this took me by surprise," Mr. Ba’atanisia said, "My understanding is that there was still a court case surrounding Moti and I am still puzzled about this. I had a meeting with Pepson late yesterday (Monday) and what do I hear next...that Moti is gone, right under my nose and I do not know about it. The Government or whoever did this should have had the courtesy to tell me so that I would be aware myself because Moti has been kept in this office since Monday last week."

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Michael Somare knew nothing of a Papua New Guinea Defence Force flight that flew out fugitive Australian lawyer Julian Moti to the Solomons early today, his office says.

Somare’s press secretary, his daughter Betha Somare, confirmed to AAP [Australian Associated Press] that a military flight had taken Moti out yesterday.

Moti, 41, recently appointed then suspended as Solomon Islands’ attorney general, is wanted by Australian authorities over alleged sex offences against a 13-year-old girl in Vanuatu in 1997.

He has been hiding in the Solomon Islands High Commission in Papua New Guinea’s capital Port Moresby after jumping bail to avoid being returned to Australia.

"We are trying to ascertain where the authority came for the defence force to act because the Prime Minister definitely had no idea about the attorney general being flown out this morning," Betha Somare said, "It does seem strange."

Foreign Secretary Gabriel Pepson also had no idea about the flight, she said.

Munda police say Moti arrived at Munda Airport in Solomons’ Western Province aboard a Papua New Guinea Defence Force aircraft at around 5 a.m.

The aircraft left immediately but Moti was detained and later flown over to Honiara yesterday afternoon.

His passport has been cancelled by Australian authorities.


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