PNG MP guilty of corruption

 POMIO MP Paul Tiensten has been found guilty by the court of misappropriating K10 million of public funds while serving as a State minister two years ago.
The Waigani National Court found Tiensten guilty of “dishonestly” paying the money to the locally-owned airline company, Travel Air.
In his 27-page ruling last Friday, Deputy Chief Justice Gibbs Salika, said Tiensten “and his officers in the department (of National Planning) dishonestly applied K10 million to the use of Travel Air”.
He extended Tiensten’s bail to January 21 to allow time for his lawyer, Arnold Amet Junior and State Prosecutor Anthony Kupmain to make submissions on the sentence. 
Salika told Tiensten he was allowed to continue performing his role as the Pomio MP until the sentencing. 
Tiensten, from Sampon village, Pomio, East New Britain, had faced charges of conspiracy to defraud and misappropriation. 
Salika found him guilty only on the misappropriation charge.
Kupmain had told the court that the case began between May 1, 2010, and March 31, 2011, in Port Moresby. 
He said Tiensten conspired with three people – Eremas Wartoto, William Sent and Ruby Zariga – to release the K10m to Travel Air owned by Wartoto. 
Tiensten was the Minister for National Planning during the time of the misappropriation. 
Salika ruled that Tiensten knew or ought to have known that his direction or directive to the acting secretary to facilitate release payment of K10m was wrong. He said Tiensten’s direction caused the department’s officers to bypass the proper appraisal processes and the Public Finances Management Act. 
“Given the accused’s (Tiensten) level of education, his intelligence, skills and experience in the public service and politics, I have no doubt in my mind that he appreciated and knew that he what he was doing was wrong and that it was dishonest,” Salika said. 
Salika said the project proposal by Travel Air never went through the processes and the procedure under the Department of National Planning’s own guidelines. 
He ruled that the conspiracy charge against Tiensten had not been established.
Kokopo businessman Wartoto is facing trial on similar charges and has filed an appeal in the Supreme Court to challenge the nature of the charges.
A government source said last night MPs convicted of criminal charges could lose their seats. An MP jailed for six months or more would automatically lose his or her seat, the source said.
Task Force Sweep chairman Sam Koim in a statement said Tiensten’s case was one of the first to be investigated by the body when it was established by the Government in August 2011. 
“The process of investigation and prosecution do take a great deal of time,” he said. 
“Every accused person is accorded the full protection of law hence they are innocent until proven guilty by a court of law.”

The National /Pacific Flash
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