By PNG Echo.
If you need schooling in corruption, you need look no further than the lessons the founding father of Papua New Guinea, Governor of East Sepik Province and former Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare, can teach you.
Sir Michael is the chief architect in the shaping of a corrupt political culture that the international diplomatic community describes, in private, as a “dysfunctional blob.” See article.
The jargon of corruption like – inflated contracts, bribery, kickbacks, travel junkets, unfulfilled contractual obligations, nepotism, lack of transparent accounting, circumvention of process, cronyism, disreputable companies, lying under oath, non-disclosure, payments in the proverbial “dribs and drabs”, conflicts of interest and high-ranking patronage are all here in the story I’m about to tell you.
It’s also a tale that acts as sad indictment of Task Force Sweep’s failure to act on evidence in their possession (and they have all I have and more, and have had it in their possession for three years). It serves to add weight to the accusation that their pursuit of the allegedly corrupt is excessively influenced by politics.
It’s all about a contract involving Papua New Guinea
This particular shady contract has drawn the keen interest of the inscrutable Singapore Public Prosecutor who has charged two of the main protagonists, Lim Ai Wah and her husband Thomas Doehrman, with engaging in a conspiracy to falsify a paper with intent to defraud.
The “paper” was an invoice from a company in the British Virgin Islands (Questzone) to ZTE Corporation (the main contractor in the PNG contract) that was purportedly for supply of goods and services but instead was to collect a commission payment of $US 3.6 million (kickback) for the awarding of said contract in Papua New Guinea (to build community colleges).
The allegedly false invoice was needed to justify highly irregular distribution of the said payment to persons with a clear conflict of interest (which will become apparent as we progress) – that included Doehrman and his wife, the then Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare and his son Michael M Somare (also known as ‘Moox’)
But the Singaporeans have just scratched the surface – this is the stuff Commissions of Inquiry are made of – and God help us, we need another Inquiry (when will they invent an ironic font?)
The case in Singapore is ongoing.
Background to a rort
It was an accepted proposal that community colleges would be built across PNG to educate people who had ‘dropped out’ or had been otherwise unable to complete their education.
In 2010, PNG Department of National Planning kicked in K56 million, K90 million was provided by a loan from the Chinese Exim bank ($US36 million), a further amount of K10 million was drawn from RESI funds for which the payee, originally the East Sepik Provincial Treasury Office was later changed to the Merienburg Community College Trust Account.
That’s a grand total of K156 million
A trust was set up to administer the funds (LTE) ZTE Corporation was appointed the lead contractor.
Paid contracts, unfulfilled
There were 17 proposed colleges, two of which were to be privately funded, 15 to be funded by monies administered by the LTE trust.
According to a report by the Department of Education dated 19 June, 2013 the status is:
- 2 – completed and operational
- 3 – completed
- 1 – ready for construction
- 9 – not established due to land disputes
But others have informed me there is absolutely nothing to show.
Take the case of the college to be built in Wabag that had an establishment cost of K5.08 million for which K5.2 million was disbursed there. Reports state that it is one of the colleges that is caught up in land disputes and yet, it is also reported that all funds were fully exhausted or fully committed with no infrastructure or construction in evidence anywhere. So what exhausted over K5 million – what was it spent on if not the college?
Worse, is the case of the Merienburg College where K17 million was deposited into their trust account, yet there is no college there: it falling under the ‘not established due to land disputes’ category. So how was that money spent?
This is blatant corruption: Task Force Sweep, has had this information since 2013
The Somare connection
There is one person who is prominent in all the dealings, he’s the ‘friend’ in high places’, and let’s face it there’s none as high has the office of the Prime Minister and no Prime Minister more prominent in PNGs past nor present, as PNGs founding father, Sir Michael Somare.
Sir Michael’s fingerprints are all over this deal. It was Sir Michael Somare
- …who was the Prime Minister at the time that the scheme was approved.
- …that put his own cronies into the ITE trust (that distributes the monies) including his own son Michael Junior (Moox).
- … who provided the only invitation for the appointment of Moox and Thomas Doehrman as trustees to ITE, circumventing protocol.
- … that was one of the 4 recipients who shared a commission of $US3.6 million in a distribution decided by Moox, Thomas Doehrman and Stephen Li of ZTE Corporation.
- … that having put his cronies in place in LTE they then enlisted ZTE corporation as the main contractor, paying them the money from the Chinese Exim loan ($US36 million – 90% of the contract price) from which the commission of 10% could be disguised as payment for services and goods and paid to the British Virgin Islands company set up for that purpose, Questzone.
- … and his cronies in LTE that overlooked or approved and paid the inflated ZTE initial quote, that went from $US10 million to $US24 million and finally to over $US38 million.
- … and 10 other people (said to include members of his family) who spent almost K15 million in travel expenses flying to China to sign contracts that could have been handled by one person in Port Moresby with the aid of the Chinese embassy.
- … who failed to disclose all of the ‘advantages’ of which he’s been the recipient in this deal. He lied under oath.
- It was under Sir Michael Somare’s watch that the Department of National Planning was complicit in paying monies into trust accounts in “dribs and drabs” to keep the accounts under the payment approvals threshold and thus to circumvent scrutiny
- It was Sir Michael Somare’s cronies who, having bypassed all standard procedures, hired a company (ZTE) that had been suspected of corruption in relation to contracts in the Phillipines, Mongolia, Norway and Algeria.
- It was Sir Michael Somare’s crony, Thomas Doehrman who received monies (K3 million) in a trust account he set up which had been earmarked by the NEC to be operated by the community college scheme’s architect, Dr Alphonse Xavier.
The Koim disconnect.
So what more do they want? The fish has literally jumped on the line for them.
Our brave corruption fighters who have no qualms in accosting and arresting female lawyers at airports and manhandling them roughly to the point of bruising –seem to be having a problem with this one. Why’s that?
All the evidence I have and the Singapore authorities have, Task Force Sweep and the Fraud Squad – Koim, Damaru and Gitua have also had for three years.
It seems, for them, it’s a legitimate use of their time to harass the current Prime Minister when he has already stated that he has received no benefits from the Paraka case and that if they can produce some evidence to the contrary he will give himself up (clearly they can’t produce any, because they haven’t) – yet they cannot act when there is a clear trail of evidence with recorded payments and a sworn statement taken by the Public Prosecutor in Singapore from Lim Ai Wah implicating all.
In fact Lim Ai Wah has been a wealth of information:
When asked if she knew that the money deposited in the Questzone account ($US3.6 million) was from the proceeds of crime, she responded:
I wish to say yes but I wish to say that if you don’t pay to the PM PNG you will not be able to get business from PNG.
She also went on to say:
I wish to state that the 3 payments labelled ‘Housing’…were made for the purpose of helping PM PNG to pay for his house and his son to pay for a separate house…Hence the US$280,000 and US$224.000…were meant for the PM PNG’s use of housing loans.
She goes on further:
Sometime in 2010, I received a call from the son of PM PNG asking me to send money to him. I told him the amount set aside for him was US$280,000 but since he did not have an account in Singapore, I wrote a cheque to PM PNGs bank account and told him to pass the money to his son…”
Let me reiterate: This is a sworn statement by one of the parties (married to Thomas Doehrman – a trustee of LTE) who has admitted this, under oath with evidentiary support (bank accounts etc).
Lim, her husband Thomas Doehrman, a trustee of LTE, Michael Somare Junior – Deputy Chairman of LTE and Sir Michael Somare, Prime Minister of PNG all benefited from the proceeds of crime to the tune of $US3.6 million.
The conflict of interests is clear.
Sir Michael Somare, at best, has failed to disclose these payments, even during a Leadership Tribunal (it could be why he’s so chary of fulfilling his statutory duties and filing his returns) and at worst…?
All hail the Chief!