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Judge arrested for corruption

Tuesday 12 April 2016 | Published in Regional

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PAPUA NEW GUINEA – Anti-corruption police in Papua New Guinea have arrested one of the country’s top judges and charged him with judicial corruption.

This is the first known arrest of a National and Supreme Court judge in Papua New Guinea, local media have reported.

Members of the National Fraud and Anti Corruption Directorate arrested Supreme Court judge Sir Bernard Sakora as he was driving out from his home on Sunday.

Police allege Sakora accepted a 100,000 kina (A$45,000) payment in 2009 from a company linked to Paul Paraka Lawyers, a law firm accused of defrauding the Papua New Guinea government of millions of dollars via inflated legal bills.

The director of PNG’s National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate, Matthew Damaru, said his officers came across the payment while investigating the complex and long-running case.

“The arrest is a result of ongoing investigations to the payment of legal bills to Paul Paraka Lawyers where this payment to the judge was discovered and the investigation conducted into the payment made,” he said. “He – Bernard Sakora – denied receiving the money.”

The 68-year-old has presided over several cases related to the payment of those bills and involving Paul Paraka Lawyers.

Sakora issued an injunction in 2010 in favour of Paul Paraka and former solicitor-general Zacchary Gelu banning the implementation and publication of the report of a Commission of Inquiry into fraudulent legal bills charged to the Government.

In February 2016, he issued a stay order preventing anti-corruption officers from executing an arrest warrant for Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, who is accused of authorising a $30 million payment to Paul Paraka Lawyers.

The anti-corruption officers had been prevented from investigating several key figures in the legal bills case – including the Prime Minister – by a series of blanket court injunctions.

But the PNG Supreme Court discharged those on April 5 when it dismissed an appeal from the prime minister and finance minister.

The prime minister’s lawyer, Tiffany Twivey, has sought leave to apply to set aside that ruling, but she has also been arrested by anti-corruption police in recent days.

Twivey was detained by police at the Jackson International Airport in Port Moresby upon arrival from Brisbane on Monday.

She was taken to the National Fraud and Anti-Corruption office and interviewed for almost four hours before being taken to Boroko police station where she was arrested and charged.

Anti-Corruption directorate head Chief Superintendent Matthew Damaru said Twivey was charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Twivey, in a statement that was posted on Facebook, said “this investigation and charge are ridiculous.”

She later told the Post-Courier: “The investigation is being done with improper motives to prevent me from preparing for the task force sweep cases.

“They interviewed me but had already prepared the charges – it didn’t matter what I said – the dirty plan has already been made. I welcome the opportunity to go through the court process and prove my innocence and prove it I shall.” - PNC