The case of prominent lawyer Paul Paraka, slapped with a 20-year prison sentence by the National Court for misappropriating K162million of State monies, has been labelled as “biggest scandal in Papua New Guinea”.
Former Attorney-General Kerenga Kua, who recently held the portfolio of Petroleum Minister in the Marape-Rosso Government, stated this in an exclusive interview with PNG HAUSBUNG.
Paraka was sentenced on October 2023, and transported immediately to Bomana Correctional prison just after his sentence.
He is the owner of one of the oldest Papua New Guinea (PNG) law firms, which at one time was the biggest and most prestige in the country.
Kua, who resigned from Marape’s government side, stated that it is unfortunate that the court had no power to make orders for restitution of the huge sum of State monies misappropriated.
Kua said he first initiated the investigation into the Paraka case when he was Attorney-General.
Consequently he was fired as the Attorney General for the actions he took in relation to Paraka.
Kua said the case then came to a standstill, with no progress on the case until recently, which Paraka being sentenced.
Kua further stated it is a scandal that Paraka was paid as an outside legal contractor in which the payment process was implemented through people in the government at the political level for leadership and at the bureaucratic level.
Kua also said that it was disappointing that those who facilitated and colluded to ensure Paraka received the huge sum of monies have not been arrested yet, except for Mr. Jacob Yafai, then Deputy Secretary of the Finance Department.
Yafai was responsible for the payments made to Paul Paraka law firm.
He faced four misappropriation charges; four charges of conspiracy and fraud; four charges of corruption; and four charges of abuse of office.
“Yafai represented the administration level, but what about the political heads who were involved?” Kua asked.
“What about the people who issued the orders and why have they not been arrested yet?”
Kua also queried why political facilitators and ministers involved have not been arrested, including the current Prime Minister (PM), James Marape. He claimed that Marape had written a letter directing these payments.
Kua further queried why the Police Commissioner, David Manning, who was appointed in 2019, did not conduct a full investigation into all parties involved.
“Why has he suppressed this for 5 years and counting?”
“The police Commissioner has got a lot to answer to the people of this country regarding the Paraka Scandal.”
“If I am wrong, the Police Commissioner has to prove me wrong openly, otherwise Manning better start doing what he has to do.”
Kua added that the conviction and sentencing of Paraka was evidence enough to do a proper investigation.
He went on to highlight three (3) components to the Paraka scandal: Facilitators- Administrators and Political leaders who were involved this is Paraka scandal; Recipient- Paul Paraka (The middle person); and Beneficiaries – Big group of people who benefitted from the proceeds of this K162million.
He said the question still remains in doubt as to who these beneficiaries are; the investigation is still incomplete.
He stressed that Paraka, whilst in prison already, needs to answer who he invested the money in because there is no investment under Paul Paraka’s name, so clearly some people have benefitted from these money and the names need to be put out.
“The beneficiaries – (politicians and or administrators) need to be named, arrests need to be made and all these beneficiaries from it must all go to trial.”
“The country needs to know who got the money (K162 Million belonging to the State) and benefitted from it because it is the people’s money.”
“That is a big incomplete story that needs to be completed.”
Kua added that Mr. Manning needs to be an independent Police Commissioner and do his job, and complete this investigation.