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Tuesday, August 20th, 2019

Former PNG PM Somare named as recipient in Singapore money laundering case

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by September 2, 2016 General

A Singapore court has named Papua New Guinea’s former Prime Minister and founding father Sir Michael Somare as the recipient of more than $1 million from a couple who laundered money meant for community colleges in PNG.

Key points:

  • Singapore’s State Court heard the pair transferred $1.04 million into Sir Michael’s Singapore bank account
  • PNG’s anti-corruption squad said it had been working with Singaporean authorities
  • Anti-corruption squad’s funding was cut after making corruption allegations against PM O’Neill

Lim Ai Wah and her American husband Thomas Doerhman were sentenced to jail in Singapore yesterday after being convicted of falsification of accounts and transferring the benefits of criminal conduct.

The State Court heard the pair transferred $US784,000 ($1.04 million) into Sir Michael Somare’s Singapore bank account in 2010, as part of an attempt to set up a number of community colleges in Papua New Guinea.

Sam Koim, the chairman of Papua New Guinea’s anti-corruption squad Taskforce Sweep, said his team had been working with Singaporean authorities on the case.

“It’s a case that we’ve been looking forward to, because it’s part of a major investigation that my team has conducted,” he said.

“We’ve been working with Singaporean authorities on this case and we were looking forward to a decision, and we’re satisfied that such a decision has been made.

“It’s a landmark decision in terms of having people prosecuted outside of our jurisdiction, concerning … funds that are meant for PNG but are laundered in an offshore jurisdiction.”

Mr Koim said the Singapore case could have an impact on his squad’s investigations in Papua New Guinea.

“Some of the evidence that we needed were actually used in that proceeding … Under the Singapore legislations, there is a provision that if we provide information for a prosecution that is conducted overseas … they can reciprocate that when we need that information,” he said.

He could not comment on whether or not Sir Michael had been interviewed by the taskforce.

Australia could do more to assist corruption investigations

Taskforce Sweep’s funding was cut in 2014 after it made official corruption allegations against Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.

Earlier this year the police commissioner suspended the country’s top fraud and anti-corruption officers, following a series of high profile arrests of government officials.

However Mr Koim said he doubted the squad’s money troubles would impact the current investigation.

“The investigation on PNG’s side is almost complete. One of the missing ends is that decision from Singapore … We’ve been working this long without funding, so we will see how best we will progress this case,” he said.

The anti-corruption chief has previously described Australia as Papua New Guinea’s Cayman Islands, due to the “significant portion” of illicit funds invested in the country obtained from PNG.

Mr Koim said the Singapore prosecution has set a precedent for Australia to follow.

“This is a case where the Singaporean authorities have gone out of their way to detect a suspicious transaction, and proceeded with that suspicion to mount a case against these three people,” he said.

“I believe there is a lot of AUSTRAC (Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre) information filed one after the other on suspicious transactions that originate in PNG … All they need to do is identify the charges and prosecute the people without waiting for us to send information down on predicate offences that are committed in the victim country.

“They can proceed on the information they have and fit it into the technical charges like Singapore did.”

The ABC has contacted Sir Michael for comment on the case.

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