Fraud charges laid from an Australian law firm arrested in Papua New Guinea are “politically motivated” his law firm claims, although the trustees of the fund allegedly defrauded of just about $100m have also come to his defence.

a truck driving down a dirt road: Photograph: Lloyd Jones/AAP

© Presented by The Guardian
Photograph: Lloyd Jones/AAP

Greg Sheppard, a former Queensland prosecutor, has been bailed on two rates of conspiracy and two of bogus pretence, but will “vigorously defend” the fees, the Guardian has been advised.

Almost $100m has allegedly been defrauded from a have faith in fund set up to finance enhancement projects in communities which have been devastated by substantial environmental injury wreaked by the Alright Tedi copper and goldmine.

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Police allege 268m kina was misappropriated from the Western Province People’s Dividends Local community Mine Continuation Arrangement (WPPD CMCA) have faith in fund and improperly paid into the accounts of the Ok Tedi Fly River Advancement Foundation (OTFRDF) and Sheppard’s legislation agency.

a truck with a mountain in the background: The Ok Tedi mine in March 2006. Greg Sheppard’s law firm says the fraud charges against him are ‘politically motivated’.

© Photograph: Lloyd Jones/AAP
The Ok Tedi mine in March 2006. Greg Sheppard’s legislation agency states the fraud costs towards him are ‘politically motivated’.

The rely on fund was established with earnings from the Okay Tedi mine to fund enhancement initiatives, these as roads, educational facilities and wellness clinics for villages in Western Province impacted by the mine.


Load Mistake

When BHP designed Ok Tedi on challenging mountainous terrain in the vicinity of PNG’s border with Indonesia in 1984, it did not build a tailings dam to store squander from the large mine, in its place pumping sludge straight into the Ok Tedi and Fly rivers.

The tens of hundreds of thousands of tonnes of tailings discharged each and every yr around decades killed fish and trees, poisoned croplands and consuming drinking water, and devastated the area’s financial state, sparking a massive-scale, and finally prosperous, lawsuit by locals against the miner, and the institution of the trust fund.

But for yrs, citizens of these villages, and politicians in Port Moresby, have complained that none of the payment promised has at any time attained the communities of Western Province, which stay some of the most impoverished in the state.

The Okay Tedi Fly River Growth Basis (OTFRDF), a not-for-revenue organisation representing the communities influenced by Okay Tedi mine air pollution, says the funds was legitimately transferred adhering to a 2018 conclusion from the national courtroom which ordered the OTFRDF swap the PNG federal government as trustees of the fund.

“The Ok Tedi Fly River Growth Fund mission is to get well revenue that rightfully belongs to the pollution-afflicted persons of the Fly River region and has been misappropriated above two many years,” a spokesperson for OTFRDF mentioned.

“The nationwide courtroom appointed OTFRDF as trustee of some of these resources … [in] 2018. We have gained each individual situation that has long gone right before the PNG courts, and lawfully transferred the money into the have faith in accounts of our legal professionals, equally in PNG and abroad.

“Attempts to arrest associates of our board, which include Edna Oai, follows these effective authorized actions. It is an illegal try by effective forces in PNG to hold regulate of funds that rightfully belongs to the air pollution-afflicted men and women of the Fly River region.

A spokesperson for Sheppard’s law agency, Younger and Williams, explained it had, at all periods, acted on the guidance of OTFRDF “and all transactions have been in accordance with the PNG court order”.

“Young and Williams is the only significant regulation business in PNG that does not work for the governing administration, and as this kind of we are just one of the only regulation firms inclined to choose authorized motion towards the govt on behalf of customers. The fees levelled against our firm’s husband or wife are politically enthusiastic and adhere to the PNG government’s failure in the courtroom system. The fees will be defended vigorously.”

But in a assertion issued on Thursday, the PNG police commissioner, David Manning, mentioned the transactions had been not authorised. He mentioned investigations had been continuing and “other suspects will also be introduced in for inquiry into their alleged involvement in committing the fraud”.

“The investigation continues to be ongoing and features a comprehensive forensic investigation into … the expenditure of the 268m kina, which law enforcement will allege were not authorised by the belief … this contains forwarding proceeds from the 268m kina to individual lender accounts.”

Previously this month, 45-calendar year-outdated Edna Oai, from South Fly district in Western Province, was charged with 15 counts of bogus pretence, conspiracy and misappropriation about the alleged fraud.

Gregory James Sheppard, an Australian citizen, has practised law in PNG for much more than 3 a long time, and is a companion at Port Moresby legislation business Young and Williams. Its web-site claims Sheppard “has acted for a selection of outstanding purchasers in Papua New Guinea, which includes prime ministers, ministers of condition and businessmen.”

Sheppard was also the manager of Brisbane indie-pop team, Sheppard, of which 3 of his kids are users. The team experienced a No 1 Australian hit single, Geronimo, and performed at the AFL grand remaining previous Oct.