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Paul Tiensten wanted for corruption, $4.4 million fraud

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Oct. 5, 2011) – Former Papua New Guinea (PNG) government minister Paul Tiensten has surfaced in Cairns, Australia where he has instructed a PNG law firm to mount a legal challenge against the team seeking his arrest.

His court challenge against the National Economic Council (NEC)-sanctioned Investigative Team Sweep will be heard today in the Kokopo National Court.

He will be represented by Warner Shand Lawyers in court while PNG Solicitor General Neville Devete confirmed last night that he has dispatched a team to Kokopo to defend the State in the matter.

[PIR editor's note: Tiensten went missing after police arranged for him to appear for questioning in mid-September 2011; at the time, he was reported to have flown the coop to Brisbane after managing to evade police in Kokopo and Port Moresby. He has been implicated in corruption and fraud charges over 10 million kina [US$4.4 million] paid to a private airline company owned by Eremas Wartoto out of government development funds.]

Court documents obtained by this paper, showed that Tiensten has deposed an affidavit in Cairns Australia, seeking orders, among others, a permanent injunction restraining the Taskforce from conducting any further investigations and a Declaration that the NEC Decision No. NG 03/2011 establishing the investigation is null and void.

In an Affidavit deposed in Australia on September 30, in support of his application, Tiensten explained the reasons for him taking out this proceeding and outlined the sequence of events which led him to be where he is, and why he is seeking the courts to grant his relief. Among the paragraphs in his affidavit, he stated that having travelled out to Australia for vacation over the Independence weekend; he became aware of a letter dated September 14 signed off by the first defendant Sam Koim, to Air Niugini General Manager Security requesting him to monitor his movements as a possible suspect.

"Having read the letter (its force and commands), I knew that I will be arrested and this goes against my understanding of the law as regards to legal constitutional improprieties involved in the establishment and sanctioning of the Investigation Team by the NEC, all of which are the basis upon which I am bringing this proceedings," he stated.

Tiensten’s Judicial Review challenge against the Investigative team now brings the number of court challenges against the team to three.

Former Madang MP Alois Kingsley and businessman Eremas Wartoto have both filed similar applications in the Waigani National Court challenging the NEC decision to establish the team. Both were arrested, interviewed and charged on separate fraud charges, and released on bail.

Despite two invitations to attend police interviews in Port Moresby and Kokopo, Tiensten evaded police and fled to Australia.

Tiensten is the MP for Pomio electorate in East New Britain, and was up until August 2, the Minister of National Planning and Monitoring in the recently ousted Somare government.

Claims of corruption and massive fraud involving government funds in National Planning prompted the incoming government of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill to institute an investigation into these allegations.

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