Posted By Staff Reporter
SBS reports that Australian Federal Police are looking into allegations of money laundering levelled against Lawyer Greg Sheppard and his Partner Harvey Maladina, brother of convicted criminal Jimmy Maladina.
The announcement follows the revelations that aired last night on SBS Date-Line Program "Dirty Money: How Corrupt Cash is Reaching Australia"
Australian Sydney Morning Herald ran a headline story "Top lawyers caught in undercover sting; police urged to investigate"
Sydney Herald report urged Australian Federal police to investigate Australia's role as a safe haven for corrupt funds from overseas following the story.
PNG chief corruption fighter, Taskforce Sweep chairman Sam Koim, told Fairfax Media the video footage obtained from an undercover sting showed that "Australia is becoming the choice destination for dirty politicians in the region to park their funds".
"The federal government needs to launch a major investigation," he said.
Following Koim's request Australian; Treasurer Joe Hockey replied that he "certainly" hoped Australia wasn't a safe haven for corrupt funds from Papua New Guinea. "In the budget I announced a further $127 million to strengthen the resources for the investigative taskforce into the unlawful flow of money into Australia."
Greg Sheppard was interviewed by TVWAN news reporter today claiming comments were inaccurately portrayed.
"The general tenor of my conversation, as depicted in that footage, is to unequivocally recommend that he do not engage in the suggestion that he had articulated," he said. "I told him to have nothing to do with such a thing."
Sheppard's comments are inconsistent with SBS published transcript of the whole interview.
Sheppard's partner Harvey Maladina, claims on camera that his brother, convicted fraudster Jimmy Maladina, is "very close" and "chief adviser" to Mr O'Neill.
"He advises Peter, he talks to the Prime Minister every five minutes," says Harvey Maladina, about his brother Jimmy. "You want a license … he gets it."
The footage shows Mr Maladina boasting about how Jimmy acted as a middleman to hide corrupt payments relating to the National Provident Fund, a workers' pension fund, that went "back to the Prime Minister". He says the brother covered up Mr O'Neill's involvement by fleeing to Australia for several years.
"The problem was there was a missing link in this chain and that was my brother," he says.
"They didn't extradite him [during the fraud inquiry] so that saved the Prime Minister."
In late May, after a 17-year legal odyssey, Jimmy Maladina was convicted of corruptly stealing funds in 1998 from the National Provident Fund, which he chaired. Maladina faces sentencing over his conviction next month (15 July 2015) Prime Minister was arrested in relation to the same offences he the Magistrate later dismissed the charges against him for lack of evidence.
"Australians should harbor no illusions that corruption is someone else's problem", said Rick Jacobsen, a campaigner at Global Witness. "The exposes published by Fairfax Media this week put Australia at the epicentre of regional corruption and money laundering that is harming ordinary Australians and the citizens of impoverished neighbours like Papua New Guinea alike."
"Lax laws allow unscrupulous lawyers, property developers and accountants to turn financial centres like Australia and Singapore into havens for stashing dirty money," said Mr Jacobsen. "Governments have a responsibility to act, starting with full investigations and appropriate sanctions, and leading to regulatory reforms that increase oversight of high-risk professions."
The undercover footage also shows Harvey Maladina naming a leading Australian Queen's counsel that he uses to issue inflated legal invoices to launder corrupt funds.
"He's billed us more previously," Mr Maladina says.
Asked to clarify that the QC is willing to adjust the bill to a higher amount, in order to disguise money transfers to Australia, Mr Maladina responds: "Sure."
"Normally if it's through the law firms, they don't usually question that because it's – especially if it's a firm that I'm based with, it's a prestigious firm …," Mr Maladina says.
It is unclear who the QC named by Maladina in the secret recording.
Two prominent Australian QC's (Queens Counsel) currently briefed out by Sheppard and Maladina's firm Young & Williams are Mal Varitimos and John Griffins, neither were named in the special report.
It's unclear whether AFP will extend their investigations to other Australian Lawyers who practice in PNG, act for the Prime Minister and paid millions in public funds.
sources; Sydney Herald & SBS World News.
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