NICK McKENZIE & RICHARD BAKER | The Age
AUSTRALIA'S FOREIGN MINISTER BOB CARR has used his special powers to cancel the 457 visa issued by the Gillard government to an alleged crime boss wanted in Papua New Guinea over the theft of $30 million.
Senator Carr's decision to revoke the visa of Eremas Wartoto comes a week after Fairfax revealed that the powerful PNG businessman - accused of being one of PNG's most corrupt figures by anti-graft authorities - was using his 457 visa to avoid arrest and prosecution.
Sources in PNG confirmed that Mr Wartoto and his immediate family members in Queensland were contacted by immigration authorities late this week and told that the federal government was cancelling their visas.
Mr Wartoto's visa has been cancelled by Senator Carr using laws that allow the Foreign Minister to revoke a 457 on the basis that the holder poses ''a risk to the health, safety or good order of the Australian community''.
But some senior government sources in PNG are furious that the Gillard government did not act sooner to expel Mr Wartoto, who has been living in Australia since he was charged in absentia in August 2011 with serious corruption offences.
The visa allowed Mr Wartoto to live in Cairns and fly in and out of Australia to several Asian countries despite being the most wanted man in PNG.
Mr Wartoto fled Australia to PNG last week after Fairfax tried to photograph him in Queensland. He remained on the run in PNG until Friday, when anti-corruption investigators tracked him to the port town of Kimbe and arrested him.
Mr Wartoto obtained a 457 visa in July 2011 - the foreign skilled worker visa at the centre of a Gillard government crackdown - after learning PNG authorities planned to charge him in August 2011.
Since then he has claimed to be too ill to face trial in Port Moresby but travel records reveal he has travelled to Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Fiji and the Solomon Islands during the past two years and has been able to return to live in Australia each time thanks to his 457 visa.
A spokesman for Senator Carr said: ''Given the legal issues … it was not possible to take action until now.''
PNG government sources have suggested Mr Wartoto's visa was not cancelled earlier because of the Gillard government's desire not to upset PNG government members who support the Manus Island asylum seeker detention centre.
Mr Wartoto is linked to powerful PNG politicians, including Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato.
Mr Wartoto obtained his 457 visa after a Cairns car hire company he owns sponsored him on the basis there was a shortage of ''general corporate managers'' in the area.