"Australia's apparent inability to assist in this most basic of legal processes does not sit well with its broader anti-corruption and security intentions in the region" – Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary
| ABC Investigations | Extract
SYDNEY - A Papua New Guinea government minister and top justice officials say they are "extremely frustrated" with Australia for harbouring a Cairns resident wanted for one of the biggest alleged frauds in the country's legal history.
In an early test for the Albanese government's Pacific strategy, PNG immigration minister Bryan Kramer and the country's national police force have spoken out to the ABC about "unacceptable" delays in Australia's handling of an extradition request for PNG citizen Samson Jubi.
Australia has spent 18 months considering a draft request to extradite Mr Jubi, a Cairns resident who PNG police say is a chief suspect in a fraud case scheduled for trial in two weeks.
Mr Jubi, a lawyer and businessman with ties to senior PNG politicians, is wanted over the alleged misappropriation of K268 million from impoverished communities in the country's Western Province.
PNG police allege he conspired to funnel the money from a trust fund set up to benefit tens of thousands of villagers affected by Australian mining giant BHP's environmental catastrophe at the Ok Tedi mine in PNG more than 20 years ago.
ABC Investigations understands Mr Jubi, 53, has travelled freely, flying to Singapore this month, while PNG officials have become increasingly frustrated with the stalled extradition talks.
Mr Kramer this week cancelled Mr Jubi's passport, telling the ABC he would make a formal request to the Australian Border Force to deport him.
"This person is alleged to be the principal architect behind one of our largest financial crimes in our history," said Mr Kramer, who oversaw the case when he was the minister for police and justice.
"For him to be able to remain in Australia to avoid prosecution, it is an issue of concern … especially given Australia's cooperation on improving governance and law enforcement, only to be falling short when making decisions about a person taking haven in Australia.
"It is unacceptable that it has taken the [Australian] attorney-general's department up to 18 months to make a firm position on a request for an extradition, without actually saying that we have … not met the standard requirements of Australia's legislation.
"Today, we continue to wait. That may go on for two years. It is something that we are extremely frustrated about."
Mr Jubi was granted Australian permanent residency more than 10 years ago.
He has been living in Cairns since leaving PNG in 2015.
ABC Investigations tracked him down to his home, where he was living with his family.
The ABC has confirmed he bought the $240,000 home in cash in June 2020, after the alleged fraud.
The purchase was a turnaround in fortunes for Mr Jubi, whose previous Cairns home was repossessed five years earlier after he defaulted on a mortgage, owing ANZ Bank $296,000.
Mr Jubi declined the offer of an interview or the opportunity to respond on the record to written questions, including about how he funded his Cairns property purchase.
But he fiercely maintained his innocence, claiming he was the victim of a political witch-hunt.
He said he always aimed to help the communities affected by the Ok Tedi mine disaster.
PNG's national police force has also condemned Australia's handling of the case, in an extraordinary public intervention into the confidential extradition talks.
In a statement to the ABC, the Royal PNG Constabulary accused Australia of undermining crucial anti-corruption work and aid spending in the Pacific, which totals nearly $500 million in PNG each year.
"Australia's apparent inability to assist in this most basic of legal processes does not sit well with its broader anti-corruption and security intentions in the region," a statement from the Royal PNG Constabulary said.
"With all that has happened to destabilise the region in recent months, PNG authorities perhaps have a valid basis to expect a greater level of cooperation from Australia on issues relating to crime and corruption."
The ABC understands PNG's Attorney-General and Justice Secretary, Dr Eric Kwa, also wrote to the Australian attorney-general's department this year to raise concerns about the delays and stress that Australia must not be a safe haven for alleged criminals.
Anti-corruption experts have long accused Australia of failing to do enough to prevent itself from being a haven for Papua New Guineans suspected of crimes and laundering money.