PNG parliamentarian faces cyber crime charges over K250m Ok Tedi claim

MP James Donald
North Fly MP James Donald ... defamation alleged over claims about use of Ok Tedi landowner funds. Image: PNG Post-Courier

By Trevor Wahune in Port Moresby

North Fly MP James Donald yesterday made an appearance in Papua New Guinea’s Waigani Committal Court to face cyber crime charges for allegedly publishing defamatory materials against a lawyer and the management team of OK Tedi River Development Foundation.

Magistrate Garry Unjo, reading the MP’s charges, said Donald, from Gasuke village in North Fly district in Western Province, had allegedly published defamatory materials against Young and Williams principal lawyer Greg Sheppard and Ok Tedi River Development Foundation (OTRDL) chairman Steven Bagari, and Samson Jubi.

Donald was charged with a count each of attempting to pervert the court of justice, and publishing defamatory materials.

Police alleged that Donald had posted a false and misleading defamatory article titled “Where is the money?” on his personal Facebook page on July 26, alleging that Sheppard and Bagari had misappropriated more than K250 million ($110 million) in funds that belonged to the Ok Tedi landowners.

Other articles also signed and approved for release by him were allegedly published in the two daily newspapers, the PNG Post-Courier and The National.

According to the police summary of facts, Donald had allegedly posted defamatory materials against Sheppard, Bagari and Jubi intentionally to tarnish the reputation of the three men without factual evidence to support his claims on Facebook.

Police further alleged that Donald’s defamatory publications were made despite him knowing there was a writ of summons, filed by Young and Williams Lawyers on behalf of OTFRDL in the High Court of Singapore (HC/S628/2020 between OTFRDL and others, Vs James Donald).

His alleged accomplice, Phillip Baindridge, is the chairman of PNG Sustainable Development Progamme (PNGSDP).

The summons sought to retrieve funds worth more than K250 million (NZ$110 million) back to PNG and put into the control of foundation and the people affected.

Trevor Wahune is a University of Papua New Guinea journalism graduate and reporter on the PNG Post-Courier.

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