PNG HOUSING OFFICIAL ARRESTED FOR THEFT OF FUNDS

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Asukusa tried to evade arrest

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, March 26, 2008) – Police made a dramatic arrest of National Housing Corporation managing director Paul Asukusa yesterday at the National Court precinct.

There was a near confrontation by supporters of Mr. Asukusa and police when he was detained and ordered by police to board a police vehicle to take him to the Boroko police station for questioning.

Before his detention, as he was walking down to the car park he and his supporters had shouted, "Who is the complainant in the matter? Am I a common criminal to warrant four truckloads of armed policemen to come and arrest me? I will now drive to Boroko police station and answer these allegations."

But police who had been waiting at the car park moved in and detained him, saying their numerous requests for him to voluntarily front up at the station had been ignored since Sunday and that if ordinary citizens could be detained he was also answerable to the law like anyone else.

Asukusa was wanted by police on allegations of misappropriation since Sunday when he was requested to report to the Boroko police station. He refused, saying police were coerced by outside forces to arrest him.

Yesterday police followed him to the courthouse and waited for him outside until he had finished from the court when they moved in and detained him.

Earlier in court, his lawyer had tried to make an application before Deputy Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia to restrain police from arresting his client until the current court proceeding is determined. The judge refused on the grounds that there were too many leave applications by the plaintiff that were yet to be prosecuted.

Asukusa was questioned by CID officers for four hours before he was arrested and charged with misappropriating PGK50,000 [US$18,599] belonging to the National Housing Corporation.

He was released on a PGK1,000 [US$372] bail.

Meanwhile, NCD metropolitan commander Fred Yakasa has denied that policemen were coerced or forced into arresting Asukusa.

"At no one time did my men or me, for that matter, receive any orders from anybody to arrest Asukusa," Mr. Yakasa said.

"We did not cook this thing up.

"There was a complaint laid and because it is of public interest my men requested Asukusa to report to them for questioning but he refused outright."

He also stated that he had nothing against Asukusa and it was his investigators who would determined the case and decided to bring in the suspect for questioning.

Meanwhile, the file on the Gordon flats that went missing recently has been found, Lands Secretary Pepi Kimas said yesterday.

Mr. Kimas said an officer in his department had hidden the files. He said he was looking at the whole matter as it was a serious issue.

Kimas said because the case was before the National Court, he would produce the file if it was required.

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