Australian lawyer arrested in PNG for conspiracy and fraud
An Australian lawyer has been arrested and charged for allegedly defrauding over $95 million from a trust fund that had been earmarked to develop schools and health clinics in one of Papua New Guinea’s most impoverished regions.
Former Queensland Crown prosecutor Gregory James Sheppard has been arrested in PNG’s Port Moresby and charged with two counts of conspiracy and two counts based on false pretence over an alleged fraud of K268 million ($96 million) from the Western Province People’s Dividends Community Mine Continuation Agreement.
PNG’s Special Police Forensic and Criminal Investigations will allege two transactions, totalling K52 million ($18.96 million) were paid into Mr Sheppard’s firm, Young & Williams, and a further three transactions totalling K216 ($78.25 million) were paid into not-for-profit Ok Tedi Fly River Development Foundation (OTFRDF).
The money was promised to the residents of the Western Province who were impacted by the Ok Tedi copper and gold mine and was due to be used for developments, such as roads, schools and health clinics. For years, the community has complained these funds have not reached them and have been misappropriated elsewhere.
In a statement, PNG’s Police Commissioner David Manning said that the investigations are still continuing as “other directors of the OTFRDF and other suspects will be [brought] in for inquiry into their alleged involvement in committing the fraud”.
The investigations began after a formal complaint from the South Fly MP James Donald. Mr Sheppard has been working in PNG for over three decades and has assisted high-profile clients, such as prime ministers, ministers of state and businessmen.
More to come.