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Task Force Sweep permanently stayed

The National Court yesterday issued a permanent stay order stopping the National Executive Council’s (NEC) decision to disband the Investigation Task Force Sweep (ITFS).

This effectively means that ITFS will continue on its investigation work pending the determination of the substantive hearing of the application.

ITFS chairman Sam Koim filed the application in court to review two NEC decisions. The first was on the disbanding of Task Force Sweep and the second was on the establishment of an Interim Office of Anti-Corruption (IOAC) to replace Task Force Sweep.

He named Prime Minister Peter O’Neill as first defendant, NEC as second defendant, Attorney General Ano Pala as third defendant and the State as forth defendant in the proceedings.

Mr Koim also sought a stay of the decisions pending the substantive hearing of the application.

The court issued an interim stay in favour of Mr Koim at the initial hearing and after considering submissions from all parties, granted a permanent stay.

The arguments by the defendants in opposing the application for stay was rejected after the court found that the arguments did not respond to the submissions by the plaintiff on the issue of stay but on the issue of competency of the application.

Presiding judge Justice Les Gavara-Nanu, in a 30-page ruling, found that the application by the plaintiff raised serious arguable cases to be tried and the permanent stay was necessary to maintain the status quo.

The judge found amongst others that the abolishment of ITFS was done with immediate effect which could subsequently cause hardship, inconvenience and prejudice to the plaintiff more than the defendants.

The judge stated in his ruling that the members of the ITFS, which comprised of experts within various government agencies had charged and prosecuted many high profile cases, some of which have resulted in conviction and offenders jailed, while other cases were still pending.

"Many have been charged with stealing millions of kina. Paul Paraka alone has been charged with stealing K71 million from the State.

"This and other cases for Paul Paraka’s accomplices are still pending prosecution," Justice Gavara-Nanu said in his ruling.

He also found that the decision to abolish ITFS would have adverse effect on the hard work and resource ITFS had put in to investigate and prosecuted corruption cases. "It is clear that the State will be the one to suffer irreparable damage if ITFS files are lost, damaged or tampered with," the judge said.

"All the hard work that ITFS has put into those cases and time and money spent to do such work will be a total waste and the people accused of committing serious crimes will not be brought to justice. No amount of damage would be sufficient remedy."

The judge ruled that the NEC decisions numbered 191 and 196 of 2014, which were made on June 18 and 24, in which NEC decided to abolish ITFS and for ITFS to transfer all its working files to the IOAC to be headed by former Judge, Graham Ellis be permanently stayed until the said decisions are heard and fully determined by the court.
PNG Today / Post Courier

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