PORT MORESBY - The national court in Waigani has allowed former University of Technology vice-chancellor Dr Albert Schram to return to Italy for three weeks to obtain his original doctoral credentials.
Dr Schram had his passport seized and was detained in Papua New Guinea after being arrested earlier this month and charged with obtaining employment through ‘false pretence’.
Police allege he produced a fake PhD certificate to Unitech in 2012 when he successfully sought the post of vice-chancellor there.
Dr Schram denies the charges and has produced copies of his credentials in the past and, more recently, even published them on the internet
“Paulina and I are still filled with disbelief and incredulity about being charged, that the case has not been dismissed yet, that we have received no support from our country [the Netherlands], and that we are still here as tourists on a very expensive involuntary holiday,” Dr Schram told me.
Judge Panuel Mogish yesterday varied Dr Schram’s bail and ordered his passport to be returned to enable him to travel to the European University Institute in Florence to obtain his original credentials, the subject of the case in the committal court.
Justice Mogish said it would be academic and career suicide for Dr Schram to abscond from bail and not return to PNG.
“I do not think any reasonable man would just walk away leaving a trail of serious allegations unanswered,” he said.
“His standing in the academic world would be seriously affected.”
Dr Schram will be allowed to leave PNG with his bail increased from K2,000 to K10,000 and two guarantors committing K10,000 each.
He has been ordered to return by Tuesday 12 June.
The former vice chancellor and his wife Paulina have been nervously awaiting this outcome for more than three weeks in a Port Moresby hotel.
The matter of Dr Schram’s PhD was first raised in 2013, not long after his appointment as vice-chancellor, when he began to implement measures to improve financial transparency and accountability at the university.
His reforms caused controversy among some senior staff at the university causing then pro-chancellor Ralph Saulep to challenge the veracity of the doctorate.