The decision to allow accused fraud Eremas Wartoto (pictured) to stay in Australia and avoid prosecution prompted Australia's high commissioner in Port Moresby, Deborah Stokes, to declare the case could be used to “prove that Australia is a haven for the proceeds of crime from PNG”.
The PNG government's request to “bar [the] businessman from travelling to Australia” was documented in a cable sent by the Australian High Commission to Canberra on 24 August 2011.
At that time, Wartoto - a politically connected businessman - had been arrested in PNG as part of a major fraud inquiry into misappropriation of taxpayer funds involving allegedly corrupt politicians and bureaucrats.
Despite the PNG request, Wartoto - who is represented by a law firm owned by PNG's foreign minister - was granted entry to Australia on a 457 visa in September 2011. His skilled worker visa was issued after the Cairns car hire company he owns sponsored him on the basis there was a shortage of “general corporate managers” in the area.
A diplomatic cable marked “secret limited distribution” to Foreign Minister Bob Carr in July 2012 states that Wartoto left PNG ''to avoid prosecution'' after an anti-corruption taskforce accused him of a $30 million fraud.
However, despite knowing he was residing in Australia to avoid prosecution, the federal government made no effort to force Wartoto to return to PNG to face charges.
Fairfax Media revealed in May that Wartoto had been able to use his 457 visa to return to Australia after regular trips around Asia.
These trips were taken despite his lawyers lodging medical certificates in PNG's National Court stating he was too ill to return home.
Frustrated anti-corruption investigators and police in PNG believe Wartoto's case is a prime example of Australia failing to act on suspected corrupt politicians, officials and business people using Australian banks and real estate markets to hide ill-gotten gains.
Shortly after Fairfax Media revealed Wartoto's presence in Australia, Senator Carr cancelled Wartoto's visa.