Asia Pacific Report newsdesk
Papua New Guinea police have arrested and charged prominent Australian lawyer Greg Sheppard on allegations related to funds belonging to a K268 million (NZ$105 million) Western Province People’s Dividends Trust Account, reports the PNG Post-Courier.
The account is also known as the Community Mine Continuation Agreement (CMCA) Trust Fund held with ANZ Bank and was set up to benefit about 147,000 indigenous landowners and villagers in 58 villages impacted on by mining.
He was detained by the Special Police Forensic and Criminal Investigation Team (SPFCIT) during a lunch hour at a restaurant in Waigani on Wednesday, and taken to police headquarters in Konedobu for questioning.
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After five hours of interview, Sheppard was arrested and charged with two counts of false pretences and two counts of conspiracy to defraud. He was released on a K3000 (NZ$1170) police bail.
Sheppard was reported by other media to be a former Queensland prosecutor who has lived in Papua New Guinea for more than three decades.
Police did not give any other detail on the charges but the Post-Courier understands that the investigation and arrest of Sheppard stems from a formal complaint lodged by the Open Member for North Fly Electorate, James Donald, with the Office of the Police Commissioner.
Woman arrested from Daru
Last week, the Post-Courier reported a 45-year-old woman, Edna Oai, from South Fly District in Western Province had been picked up from Daru by the SPFCIT and flown to Port Moresby.
She was formally charged with 15 counts of false pretences, conspiracy and misappropriation.
Her arrest also stems from the same complaint.
The investigation reportedly established that the funds were diverted and paid to a certain law firm, a company owned by the secretary of OTFRDF Ltd, specific directors’ personal bank accounts and other companies between August 2018 and early 2020.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that a statement from Police Commissioner David Manning said the investigation was ongoing over “unauthorised expenditure” of the trust money.
“This includes forwarding proceeds from the K268 million to personal bank accounts of [trust] directors/employees,” the statement said.
“Police will also allege that the expenditures were not consistent with the spirit, tenor and intended purpose of the … Trust Funds, and used for purposes contrary to the CMCA beneficiaries.”