Singapore corruption case emphasises need for Australian government to do more

Community activist group ACT NOW! says the recent corruption case in Singapore involving former Prime Minister Michael Somare emphasises the need for Australia to do much more to crack down on money laundering from PNG.

“The Singapore authorities have a policy of zero tolerance for corruption and money laundering” says Campaign Coordinator Eddie Tanago, “but Australia allows numerous PNG politicians and senior public servants to spend well beyond their means in Australia while seemingly turning a blind eye”.

Last week an American and Singaporean couple were sentenced to six years jail in Singapore for a US$3.6 million fraud involving Papua New Guinea government funds intended for a community college program. The couple allegedly paid $784,000 in to the bank account of former Prime Minister Michael Somare. Somare has since apologised but says he has never accepted any bribes.

ACT NOW! says it is estimated as much as 50% of PNG’s annual government budget is stolen [1] through a variety of different scams involving politicians, bureaucrats and private companies. Much of that money is believed to end up in Australia, invested in property or paying school fees and other living expenses or being squandered in casino’s.

“In 2009 a Commission of Inquiry uncovered K780 million had been stolen through the Department of Finance but nobody has ever been held to account and none of the money has been recovered” says Eddie Tanago. “Australia pours hundreds of millions of dollars in aid into PNG but has never assisted in recovering stolen monies”.

The head of the anti-corruption Task Force Sweep, Sam Koim, says Australia turns a blind eye to PNG corruption [2], a view endorsed by Professor Stephen Howes of the Australian National University, one of the foremost experts on PNG [3].

Eddie Tanago says, “just last year a Global Witness investigation and SBS Dateline documentary alleged Australian lawyers are involved in laundering money out of PNG for corrupt politicians  [4] but we are not aware there has ever been any investigation by the Australian authorities into the claims”.

“We are calling on Australia to be much more proactive in cracking down on illegal money flows out of PNG and actually prosecuting and jailing those involved in corruption and those who help them lauder the proceeds”.