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PAPUA NEW GUINEA – Papua New Guinea’s Police Commissioner says he will follow a recommendation from the country’s Supreme Court to reopen the anti-corruption unit he closed last month.

PNG’s Deputy Chief Justice Gibbs Salika called Commissioner Gari Baki to appear in court, saying his closure of the National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate was delaying criminal trials and affecting the operation of the courts.

Justice Salika urged the Commissioner to reopen the unit of his own volition, and said he would be recalled to court and ordered to it if he did not.

“The office does not belong to you,” he said. “It saddens me that I have to call you up today.

“The office must remain open so the public can continue to make reports, and officers must continue to perform their roles and functions so nobody is inconvenienced.”

A corruption trial against a member of the PNG parliament was supposed to start this week, but did not proceed because fraud squad officers said they could not access their files after being locked out.

Baki closed the National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate on April 18 after a court stayed his suspension of its top officers.

He told the court he had to take back control of the unit because it was not being accountable to him.

Anti-corruption officers had been trying in recent weeks to arrest PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, but the Commissioner said the unit’s closure was not related to that.

The office remains locked and under police guard, which has stopped anti-corruption officers from going back to work.

Baki said the officers had been told to make written requests if they needed to access files for court appearances, but they had not done so.

“It’s not my intention to actually stop the investigation,” he said.

Baki said he would reopen the squad in “three or four days” once he was able to implement new measures to make its officers more accountable to him.

“The request by the Deputy Chief Justice for me to consider reopening the fraud squad office, I agree with that and I will do that as we complete the other processes that we need to put in place, particularly in making sure that there’s greater accountability down at the fraud and anti-corruption squad,” he said.

The Deputy Chief Justice also questioned whether Commissioner Baki was in contempt of court over orders reinstating the suspended director of the squad, Matthew Damaru.

Justice Salika told the Commissioner he was also concerned at the attitude of senior police towards arresting officials and politicians, saying the idea that they must be afforded extra notice and courtesy was a “fallacy”.

“Everybody is expected to go through the same process,” he said. “There must never be any hint or suggestion that leaders must be given different treatment. Forget this nonsense about giving anybody that courtesy.” - ABC