| PNG Bulletin Online | Edited
PORT MORESBY - Members of the Special Police Forensic Criminal Investigation Team arrested prominent lawyer Gregory James Sheppard of Young & Williams Lawyers in Port Moresby last week.
Sheppard was taken to Boroko Police Station, interviewed and charged with two counts of misappropriation and another two counts of money laundering in relation to his alleged direct involvement in the transfer of funds amounting to K52 million.
These funds were part of K268 million that was unlawfully withdrawn from the Western Province People’s Dividends Trust held with the ANZ Bank.
The 65 year old defendant from Perth, Western Australia, was previously charged in January on two counts of conspiracy and another two counts of false pretence.
It is alleged that on 15 February 2018, Sheppard and his law firm were engaged by the Ok Tedi Fly River Development Foundation as its legal representative regarding numerous civil proceedings instituted against the Papua New Guinea government.
Sheppard took civil proceedings against the government and obtained court orders for its clients to become a trustee of the Western Province People’s Dividends Trust replacing the government’s board of trustees.
It is alleged that, as soon as the signatories were changed, two separate payments of K15 million and K37 million were paid out as legal fees on 17 August 2018 and 23 December 2019 to the defendant. The defendant is the sole signatory of the trust account.
It is also alleged that the defendant, with assistance from other lawyers from within his law firm, communicated with officers of the ANZ Bank and successfully facilitated the two separate payments amounting to K52 million into Young and Williams Trust Account held with BSP.
It is alleged that, as soon as the defendant’s law firm was paid K52 million, the funds were expended for unrelated purposes than the original intended purpose to fund and implement development projects and programs for 158 villages located along the Fly River Corridor in Western Province.
It is alleged that Sheppard transferred approximately K10.6 million out of the K52 million to a company Mundi No.1 Limited, solely owned by Samson Jubi, chairman of Ok Tedi Fly River Development Foundation.
It is alleged that Mundi No.1 Limited then made payments to other directors and chairman of Ok Tedi Fly River Development Foundation from the monies it received. Jubi facilitated the payments whilst he was based in Cairns, Australia.
There are a number of other allegations of a similar nature.
Police obtained a court order to search the law firm’s trust account held with Westpac Bank.
Sheppard successfully obtained a court stay order and police have not been able to establish how he exhausted the K30 million which is a significant portion of the K52 million.
Police strongly believe that the monies contained in the Westpac Bank trust account have been depleted.
Police Commissioner David Manning has directed the provincial police commander for Western Province and police station commanders for North Fly District, Middle Fly District and South Fly District to assist with the current police investigation and apprehend the remaining directors of Ok Tedi Fly River Development Foundation.