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Pilot sues for millions over conviction


AN AUSTRALIAN PILOT says he lost tens of millions of dollars in business interests after being wrongfully convicted of child sex tourism. Fred Martens, 62, was sentenced to three years' jail in 2006 after being convicted in Cairns Supreme Court of raping a 14-year-old girl in PNG.

Mr Martens was released in 2009, having spent nearly 1000 days in custody, after supporters obtained PNG flight records, which Australian authorities had said didn't exist, proving he couldn't have been with the girl around the time of the alleged offence.

Lawyers for Mr Martens have lodged a statement of claim against the PNG government in the National Court of Justice, alleging his incarceration in Australia was the result of illegal action on the part of PNG and Australian Federal Police.

The document, obtained by AAP, says PNG authorities breached the nation's constitution by cooperating with the AFP to have him arrested and tried in Australia.

Mr Martens was arrested at Cairns International Airport in 2004 following a joint operation between the AFP and PNG police. As a permanent PNG resident, the statement of claim argues Mr Martens should have been tried in that country.

"He was a permanent resident, he lived there, that's where his businesses were, that's where the offence was alleged to have occurred," his barrister Peter Pena told AAP. "If he had been charged in PNG the evidence would have been available to us to disprove these charges."

The document lists a number of businesses, properties and equipment which were lost to Mr Martens because of his imprisonment in Australia. They include Pioneer Health Services, founded by Mr Martens, as well as engineering and construction firms and a security firm.

Mr Pena said the final claim would run into the "tens of millions of dollars".

"He had a wide range of business interests and properties in PNG, those are now lost as a result of what has taken place," he said.

The document also alleges a senior PNG officer in early 2004 witnessed two AFP officers steal and conceal official PNG immigration records, which would have supported Mr Martens' defence but failed to take action.

The document also claims another officer told Mr Martens' legal team he had evidence which would exonerate their client but would not disclose it without payment.

PNG's government media unit did not respond to a request to comment on the allegations, while an AFP spokeswoman said the organisation could not comment while legal action was under way.

Mr Martens is also suing the Australian government for $45 million over his ordeal.

His legal team is currently preparing to file a second statement of claim in the Queensland Supreme Court. An initial claim was dismissed last month after a judge ruled it had been filed under the wrong legislation.

Source: AAP


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