Preying on Paradise
Monday 23 September 2013
A businessman in Papua New Guinea is accused of taking millions of dollars for government work that has never been completed. He is charged but released on bail. Then, using an Australian issued 457 Visa, he comes to this country and avoids justice, telling authorities he is too sick to travel back to PNG.
Crime fighters in Papua New Guinea say this type of behaviour is all too common:
"Their families are down in Australia and their property is down there. They gamble heavily in Australian casinos, they bring money from Papua New Guinea down to Australia. And the evidence is in - they use Australian bank accounts to launder PNG corruptly-obtained money."
Next on Four Corners, reporter Marian Wilkinson travels north to investigate the extent of corruption in Papua New Guinea and the apparent failure of Australian officials to play their part in tracking down stolen money. She speaks with the Prime Minister, Peter O'Neill, who tells her he's determined to stamp out behaviour that is undermining his country's future.
"Some of our own ministers have been investigated as we speak. Nobody has been protected by this government and I can assure you that we are committed to this fight that we have started..."
But how far does this commitment to stamp out corruption extend?
The Prime Minister of PNG has just announced the next stage of an ambitious plan - creating new laws that would bring the massive Ok Tedi copper mine into a financial trust that would control the country's key national assets. The Prime Minister tells Four Corners this will minimise the possibility of corrupt behaviour. Others warn this move is ill-advised and could, in fact, raise the risk of money being syphoned off.
"The danger could be that if the team decided that they really wanted to look after themselves, rather than the broader interests of the nation, they could do extremely well for themselves and the nation could be severely short-changed." Paul Barker, PNG Institute of National Affairs
Australians have a vested interest in stopping corruption in Papua New Guinea. The reality is that corruption there is indirectly costing Australian taxpayers millions of dollars. Each year the Federal Government delivers over $500 million in aid to our northern neighbour. At the same time corruption fighters in PNG claim 25 per cent of their country's budget is lost in detectable fraud. In effect, the aid sent north is being used in part to subsidise basic services when the PNG budget is being swindled away.
"I think Australia should really focus in helping us to combat corruption and to show the seriousness start repatriating proceeds of crime that are deposited in Australian bank accounts..." Sam Koim, Head of PNG's 'Task Force Sweep'