Monday, 5 September 2016

Former prime minister Sir Micheal Somare denies his invlovement with Singapore fraud case

Papua New Guinea's former prime minister Sir Michael Somare has apologized for the shame caused to his country by being implicated in a Singapore money laundering case.

A Singapore court last week jailed a couple for laundering US$3.6-million of funds intended for setting up community colleges in PNG.

The court established that $784,000 of the money was deposited in the bank account of Sir Michael, PNG's prime minister at the time.

However in a statement Sir Michael said that at no time in his political career had he received inducements or bribes.

He said that while at first glance the charges say otherwise, he would seek clarification regarding the case and consult with his family and legal counsel about how to address the matter.

Papua New Guinea's former prime minister Sir Micheal Somare
He apologised for reports that he allegedly benefited from US$3.6 million (K11.68m) at the centre of a Singapore money laundering case.

Singapore newspaper The Straits Times reported last Thursday that Singaporean Lima Ai Wah,61, and her 68-year-old American husband Thomas Doehrman were both sentenced to 10 years and 10 months jail after they were found guilty of one count of falsifying bank accounts and five charges of transferring the benefits of criminal conduct.

Doehrman had been the trustee of a fund set up by the PNG Government to set up community colleges in PNG, reported The Straits Times. In June 2010 the trust hired ZTE Corporation for $35 million K113.6m) to supply telecom equipment for the project and the couple conspired with a ZTE employee, Li Weiming, 34, for the company to pay a secret "commission" to them.

To conceal the true nature of the payment, Doehrman and Lim acquired a British Virgin Islands shell company, Questzone Offshore, and signed a fictitious $3.6 million contract with ZTE. No services were provided, but a Questzone invoice was created.

Doehrman and Lim gave Li, a Chinese national, $850,000 (K2.75m) via two transactions to his wife’s Hong Kong bank account. They gave Sir Michael three cheques worth a total of $784,000 (K2.54m) in late 2010, all of which were paid into his Singapore bank account. The rest of the money was kept in Questzone’s bank account.

The court was not told how the couple were caught, but heard that $950,000 was meant for the couple and $1 million was supposedly set aside for bribes. In their police statements, Lim and Doehrman said bribes had to be paid to the then-PM Sir Michael in order to get business from PNG.

However, Sir Michael, in a statement at the weekend said he was taking steps to seek clarification and legal advice. "But I would like to state from the outset that at no time in my political career have I received inducements or bribes. At first glance these charges say otherwise.

Therefore, during the next few days, I will consult with my family and legal counsel and consider how to address this matter. Nonetheless, I take this opportunity to apologise to the people of PNG, my people of East Sepik and my family for embarrassment these reports may have caused. I have no further remarks to make at this time," the former PM said.

According to The Straits Times article, deputy public prosecutor Alan Loh appealed to the district judge Ng Peng Hong to impose stiff penalties due to the fact that some of the laundered money was traced to Sir Michael.

"The sentences imposed on Doehrman and Lim must reflect the seriousness of the present offences which include illicit payments made to a foreign prime minister," he reportedly said.

Sources: Radio New Zealand & Post Courier.

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