RIPEL Chairman Wong Barred From Entering Solomon Islands

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Wong allegedly has valid residence permit, vows to fight ban

By Douglas Marau

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, July 13, 2012) – Russell Islands Plantation Estate Limited (RIPEL) chairman Patrick Wong has been banned from re-entering the Solomon Islands.

The Government late yesterday evening declared the controversial businessman an "Undesirable Immigrant."

A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) last night said Wong will not be allowed to re-enter the country.

Minister of Commerce, Industries and Employment Elijah Dora Muala signed the order.

This paper understands Wong is currently overseas; he left the country on the 22nd last month.

Mr. Wong, before his departure last month, confirmed to this paper when he was at the airport that he was leaving for Australia for a short visit.

"The order has been executed as of tonight (last night), and has been delivered to all entry points, airlines and ships that operate to and from Solomon Islands informing them of the ban on Wong," the statement said.

Mr. Wong is believed to be banned following the controversial RIPEL issue on which he was claimed to be making harsh statements against the Prime Minister and his cabinet.

However, it was claimed he might also be illegally residing in the country.

But Mr. Wong yesterday told this paper from Australia that he has already consulted his lawyers and he would be challenging the minister’s Order in court.

"I am now consulting my lawyers and will apply to the High Court to quash the minister’s Orders," he said last night.

He said if the Government bans him for ‘illegally residing’ in the country, then they have no grounds, as he holds a valid residential permit which expires in 15 months (15th August next year 2013).

Mr. Wong also produced a copy of the permit to Solomon Star paper to prove his case.

The RIPEL chairman, who is an Australian citizen, has been at the center of the media spotlight after challenging a legal deal for the Government to payout RIPEL.

However, the deal failed.

The SB$24 million [US$3.3 million] deal failed after the Central Bank of Solomon Islands (CBSI) found out that there were no traces of any offshore investments from Wong.

But Mr. Wong insisted he proved to CBSI the evidence of the money he pumped into the country to keep RIPEL afloat; but it was from his other sources and not the mortgagees.

He has been accusing the government for failing to honour the agreement and threatened to sue the Government for RIPEL losses at Yandina, Central province.

RIPEL went bust when workers turned against the company and ransacked offices on claims they were ill-treated by the then General Manager John Whiteside, among other issues.

Mr. Wong argued the government failed to uphold the law resulting in the ransacking and burning down of offices in 2004.

RIPEL was one of the country’s most economical investments which specialized in copra production.

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