FUGITIVE MOTI LEAVES PNG WITH $1,600 PHONE BILL

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Dec. 31) – Telephone calls connected with Australian fugitive lawyer Julian Moti’s recent escape from Papua New Guinea have left the Solomon Islands High Commission in Port Moresby with a $13,000 debt, PNG sources said.

Sources told Solomon Star that the debt was incurred during the month when Moti was holed up in the Solomon Islands chancery in Port Moresby.

One source said the actual telephone bill was more than PGK4, 600 [US$1,600], more than tripled the normal monthly telephone bill for the High Commission’s telephone and facsimile costs.

"The bill includes calls to India, Solomon Islands and so on," the source said.

Moti was arrested in Port Moresby recently, promoting the Office of the Prime Minister to dispatch a senior official and a lawyer to Port Moresby to help deal with the matter. Both men later accompanied Mr. Moti in a secret military flight flown by the PNG Defence Force.

Who authorised the flight which landed in Munda early one morning last October is now the subject of a PNG Defence Force Inquiry, which yesterday heard that Prime Minister Michael Somare was fully aware of the arrangement for Moti’s escape.

Sir Michael has earlier denied having any knowledge of the secret flight. A number of senior PNG Government and Defence Force officials were subsequently suspended over the Motigate affair.

Moti’s escape has enraged Canberra which retaliated by banning all Ministerial visits to Australia by PNG Cabinet Ministers until who authorized the flight was known.

The Indo-Fiji-born Australian citizen’s escape has also caused a stand-off between Canberra and Honiara, with Australia insisting that Moti must return to Australia to face child sex charges.

It is understood the telephone bill related to calls made from the Solomon Islands High Commission which was used as Moti’s refuge while his escape to Solomon Islands was being planned.

It is also understood that the High Commission has received its telephone bill, which showed print outs of international calls during the period which Moti spent at the chancery.

Solomon Islands High Commissioner to PNG, Bernard Batanisia is understood to be furious about the charges and either has or is planning to ask the individuals who incurred the telephone bill to pay up.

However, Solomon Islands taxpayers will be likely to pick up the tab since it was related to Moti who at the time was Attorney General designate.

High Commissioner, Batanisia is on leave and could not be contacted yesterday for comment.

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