Transparency International Papua New Guinea has welcomed the conviction of lawyer Paul Paraka as the police confirm they are widening the investigation into the fraud case.
The NGO admits the depths of Paraka’s activities, revealed by the case, are very worrying.
Paraka, who had operated his own eponymous law firm, was convicted of misappropriating 162 million kina (about NZ$75 million) in government funds, between 2007 and 2011.
Transparency PNG spokesperson, Peter Aitsi, said the evidence outlined the complex structures that Paraka and others put together.
He said it was a very significant case because of the amount of public money involved.
“And those are just the funds that have been identified within this case itself and paid to different parties as a result of Paraka’s activities.
“From a TI point of view we would encourage the agencies to continue to develop the evidence and if there are further charges to be laid against individuals then we would encourage them to ensure they uphold their duty and responsibility,” Aitsi said.
Paraka’s law firm, which he claimed was the biggest in the country, was engaged by the Attorney-General and Solicitor-General’s office in 2000, but this arrangement ceased in 2006.
However, from 2007 the state was still making payments to legal firms linked to Paraka.
Investigations have seesawed for 10 years and led to the replacement of the Attorney-General, the shutting down of the police fraud unit investigating the matter, and acccusations of politicians being involved.
Meanwhile, Paul Paraka threatened legal action amid claims the issues were simply administrative matters.
Police Commissioner David Manning has confirmed an investigation into fraud, money laundering and misappropriation following Paraka’s conviction.
Manning said the Paraka case attracted significant national interest due to the huge amounts of public money involved in these corrupt dealings.
“The way and manner in which these funds were syphoned through the Department of Finance to various law firms, who would then transfer this money to Mr Paraka himself, has been the subject of public outrage,” he said.
Manning said police will continue to pursue, investigate, charge and arrest those involved, and to recoup all money lost in these illegal deals.