The National Court has ordered the return of K1.365 million to Ipwenz Construction Limited (Company) seized by members of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (Police) in Komo in the Hela Province in July 2022.
The Company took out Court Proceedings at the National Court (OS No. 180 of 2022) for the release of items and cash confiscated on 2 July 2022 in Komo, Hela Province.
The company argued that the funds were part and parcel of a larger amount of over K244 million contract it had secured from the National Government for the upgrade of roads in the Hela Province.
On 2 July 2022, an employee of the Company, Mr. Seth Palipe boarded a chartered Air Niugini flight to Komo Airport in Hela Province. Mr Palipe was arrested by members of the Police.
Mr Palipe was transporting K1,365,000.00 in cash. He was arrested by members of the Mobile Squad 03 (MS03) in which all his personal items and the cash was confiscated.
The Company commenced Court Proceedings at the Waigani National Court on 7 September 2022 against members of the Police and the Independent State of Papua New Guinea alleging breach of various Constitutional Rights.
The RPNGC after concluding its investigation into this matter and after being satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the monies involved in this incident were solely for commercial purposes, agreed to settle this matter to avoid further legal consequences.
Under the Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Act 2015, to lawfully hold onto or have the ability and power to keep items that were found either through a complaint or search, the case officer (investigating officer) must first and foremost ensure to charge a person(s) involved with the appropriate offence(s) under the law to validate the items seized as “State evidence” or “state exhibit”.
The five persons arrested in Komo with the cash and items have not been charged to date.
After conducting a thorough investigation, the Police has established that:
(a) The company was engaged by the National Government of Papua New Guinea (the State) to upgrade and reseal part of the Highlands Highway (the Highway) in Hela Province. The construction location is particularly along the road link between Tari and Nipa.
(b) It was the parties understanding that:
• The company would meet all costs involved in upgrading the road link along the Highway; and
• As and when required, the company would pay compensation demands from landowners to prevent any disruptions and ensure completion of the road as scheduled.
(c) On or around July 2022, the company was about to commence work on the section of the road link between Tango and Ambua.
(d) The cash was intended to pay out the landowners of that particular stretch of road.
On 21 November 2022, the National Court of Waigani ordered that the monies be returned to the company with all other personal items that were confiscated.
The Court ordered Police to return the money to Lane Lawyers, the law firm representing the company along with other items that were confiscated.