ANTI-corruption police in Papua New Guinea have arrested one of the country's top judges and charged him with judicial corruption.
Police said Supreme Court judge Bernard Sakora accepted a K100,000 kina payment in 2009 from a company linked to Paul Paraka Lawyers, a law firm accused of defrauding the PNG government of millions of dollars via inflated legal bills.
The director of PNG's National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate, Matthew Damaru, said his officers came across the payment while investigating the complex and long-running case.
"The arrest is a result of ongoing investigations to the payment of legal bills to Paul Paraka Lawyers where this payment to the judge was discovered and the investigation conducted into the payment made," he said.
"He [Bernard Sakora] denied receiving the money."
The 68-year-old has presided over several cases related to the payment of those bills and involving Paul Paraka Lawyers.
Sakora issued an injunction in 2010 in favour of Paul Paraka and former solicitor-general Zacchary Gelu banning the implementation and publication of the report of a Commission of Inquiry into fraudulent legal bills charged to the government.
In February 2016, he issued a stay order preventing anti-corruption officers from executing an arrest warrant for Prime Minister Peter O'Neill, who is accused of authorising a $30 million payment to Paul Paraka Lawyers.
The anti-corruption officers had been prevented from investigating several key figures in the legal bills case — including the prime minister — by a series of blanket court injunctions.
But the PNG Supreme Court discharged those on April 5 when it dismissed an appeal from the prime minister and finance minister.
The prime minister's lawyer, Tiffany Twivey, has sought leave to apply to set aside that ruling, but anti-corruption police have also brought her in for questioning.
They told the ABC, Ms Twivey had not been arrested, but was being interviewed in relation to the many legal applications she had made to prevent them executing their arrest warrant for the prime minister.
Hon Justice Bernard Sakora
Education: Tertiary Ipswich Grammar School; University of Papua New Guinea (LlB); London University (LlM); Australian National University (PhD)
Career: Legal Officer, Department of Justice (1974-81); Lecturer, Faculty of Law, University of Papua New Guinea (1981-92); Justice, National and Supreme Courts (1993-present)