POLICE ARREST PNG COUPLE FOR STEALING STATE FUNDS

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$724,000 missing belonged to two Milne Bay projects

By Joshua Arlo PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Oct. 31, 2011) – In Papua New Guinea (PNG), police in Kokopo have arrested a couple allegedly for misappropriating 1.6 million kina [US$724,000] belonging to the Department of National Planning and Monitoring, for two projects in Milne Bay.

The couple is Christopher Hulape, 34, and wife Agnes Hulape, 34, who is understood to be pregnant and was allowed out on bail on Saturday after being questioned and charged in relation to ongoing investigations into allegations of corruption by the O’Neill government sanctioned Investigation Task-Force Sweep. The task force has so far arrested and charged four other prominent persons in its investigations.

Mr Hulape is the former executive officer to the former Planning Minister, Paul Teinsten. According to police information, Mr Hulape is from Vailala Hiloi village, Kikori in the Gulf Province and Mrs Hulape is from Rabuana village in Rabaul, East New Britain.

Police incidental reports sighted, confirm that both were summoned to the Criminal Investigations Division (CID) office at the Kokopo Police Station where they were interviewed before being arrested and charged. Mr Hulape since last Friday has remained in police custody.

They are both expected today to make an appearance before the District Court in Kokopo over misappropriation charges under section 383A (1) (a) of the Criminal Code Act (CCA). They are also facing charges of stealing under false pretence under section 404(1)(a) CCA for allegedly misappropriating and stealing monies belonging to the State which they received from the Planning Department. A statement by the task force team confirmed police information that Mr and Mrs Hulape applied for and received project monies from National Planning as principals of Torch Bearer Productions.

According to police information provided as to a cheque dated February 23, 2011, Planning payment vouchers and cheque remittance advice, the cheque payment breakup was for projects intended for the Kiriwina Goodenough Community Resource and Learning Centre at a cost of 600,000 kina [US$272,000] and K1 million for the Kiriwina Goodenough Strategic Market Development Project in the Milne Bay Province.

It is alleged that the monies amounting to the said amount were never used for the projects and instead the husband-wife-team appied the monies to their own use.

Chairman of the investigating team, Sam Koim has said that as a matter of law, both husband and wife are still presumed innocent until proven guilty. "They now will go through the normal criminal process in court to prove their innocence on the charges laid against them. Mr Koim stated that Mr Hulape’s whereabouts came to the attention of the police earlier this month when he (Hulape) allegedly discharged a firearm in public in Kokopo.

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