Stopping dirty money

The synod Justice and International Mission (JIM) unit has been encouraging Uniting Church members to be part of a campaign to stop money stolen from developing countries being shifted into Australia. Work by the JIM unit identified more than $50 million of suspicious funds that had been transferred from Papua New Guinea (PNG) alone.

In good news, The Post Courier newspaper in PNG reported on 28 May that Australian banks have closed some suspicious bank accounts of people from PNG suspected of transferring illicit funds to Australia and $90 million of unpaid taxes had been recovered.

It is reported Australia has set up a specific team to assist PNG’s anti-corruption unit, Taskforce Sweep. The head of Taskforce Sweep, Sam Koim, was quoted as saying: “Now they know that there’s no easy movement of funds across the border, I’ve heard people who have done that previously, complaining that Australian banks and financial institutions are asking too many questions.”

At the request of PNG, restraining orders have been placed on assets under the control of suspects from PNG in Australia.

Unfortunately, on 17 June Taskforce Sweep was disbanded and its head sacked by the PNG Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill. Taskforce Sweep had issued a report to PNG police detailing aspects of the Prime Minister’s suspected past involvement in the alleged misappropriation of $28.7 million by a prominent PNG lawyer. The report led police to issue an arrest warrant against the Prime Minister.

The lawyer involved had transferred several million dollars into bank accounts and assets in Australia. He has been facing 18 charges related to the misappropriation of the funds and has denied any wrong-doing.

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