Taskforce Move To Deport Lawyer From PNG Fails

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Lawyer allegedly siphoned college trust fund monies

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Dec. 17, 2012) – Attempts by the O’Neill government to deport top lawyer Greg Shepherd out of Papua New Guinea failed last Friday amidst concerns over the legality of his deportation.

Mr. Sheppard was alleged to have been confronted by the Rausim Alien Task Force team, comprised of immigration and police officers, and ordered to proceed to the Jacksons International Airport to board a plane out of the country.

But he argued with the officers and walked off without been detained because they could not produce any documentation to support their actions.

He was in Alotau and was on his way back to Port Moresby when he was confronted after attending to an election petition case, where he is representing losing candidate Jimmy Maladina, who is disputing the win of Alotau MP and Planning Minister Charles Abel.

Chief Immigration Officer Mataio Rabura was tight lipped on the issue and referred the Post-Courier to the acting Minister for Immigration and Foreign Affairs, Kerenga Kua, who however could not be reached for comments.

A spokesman for the O’Neill Government last night said Mr. Sheppard could be pursued because of investigations into the Community College Fund.

"Tens of millions of kina have flowed into the Community College Trust Fund which Mr. Sheppard or his firm is a trustee of. The Government has on various occasions asked that these funds be accounted for, but to the best of my knowledge nothing has been fort coming to date. A number of complaints have been raised, and I understand an investigation has been launched. Mr. Sheppard might be pursued as a result of this investigation," said the spokesman.

But the comments by the O’Neill Government’s spokesman appear to be inconsistent with the actions of the Rausim Alien Task Force team, who were keen to remove the lawyer forcefully from PNG rather than let their colleagues at the Task Force Sweep team take over the case.

Mr. Sheppard’s removal could also impact on Mr. Maladina’s bid to overturn Mr. Abel’s election victory, which is surprising for political observers as the former was a close aide to Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.

In an interview with this newspaper, Mr. Sheppard said they had just concluded a five-day trial in Alotau, and had gone to Gurney Airport to catch a plane back to Port Moresby when the officials setup on him.

Whilst at the airport he said he saw a single-engine aircraft land and a number of passengers disembark. Then another aircraft, allegedly owned by the PNG party, landed which he and his client later boarded to return to the PNG capital.

"Interestingly one of the passengers that landed earlier in the single- engine aircraft boarded the same plane that me and my client were in," he said.

That was when he was advised that the passenger was an immigration officer who was there to detain him and oversee his deportation.

"On arrival there was a team of officers including the one that flew with us on the aircraft from Alotau and they demanded that I go with them to the Port Moresby International Airport to board the next overseas flight out of the country

"That’s when I started asking them to produce documentations and paperwork for my deportation, in which they had none; I frankly told them that in the absence of any of this, I will not comply with their request. It’s very, very strange. Nobody has the power to deport anybody unless proper paper work is produced and I am not going to be kidnapped so I walked away from them," he said

He said it will be business as usual for him today when he will represent another losing candidate at the Waigani National Court but this time escorted by a bodyguard.

Last month Mr. Sheppard took out a restraining order against PNG police and migration officials, stopping them from deporting him. The ban was later uplifted but he successfully took out another restraining order after convincing the court that he believed the defendants are capable of forcefully removing him. The order is still current and is returnable in February 2013.

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