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Panguna politics distracting us from independence referendum

Ex solicitor-general applies for asylum over payback fears

Neville DeveteYARA MURRAY-ATFIELD | Pacific Beat | Australian Broadcasting Corporation

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MELBOURNE - Papua New Guinea's former solicitor-general is allowed to apply for a protection visa in Australia, a court ruling has found, based on fears of harm after raising corruption allegations in what has been called the country's "biggest" alleged fraud case.

The Federal Circuit Court (FCC) of Australia heard that when Neville Devete (pictured) was the solicitor-general in 2012, he made a complaint to PNG's National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Squad in relation to alleged "improper payments" made to PNG's biggest law firm, Paul Paraka Lawyers.

The court heard Mr Devete received a death threat and that he and his family faced intimidation following the complaint.

In a judgement just published, the FCC ordered his application for an Australian protection visa be allowed to proceed.

The Anti-Corruption Squad alleged the PNG Government paid about $30 million to Paul Paraka and his law firm for inflated or invented legal cases.

In a letter before the court, detective chief superintendent Matthew Damaru called it Papua New Guinea's "biggest" alleged fraud case so far and stated Mr Devete was the initial complainant in the case against Mr Paraka.

The scandal embroiled a number of PNG Government members, including Prime Minister Peter O'Neill, although an arrest warrant against him was quashed late last year.

Mr O'Neill has long argued the allegations were politically motivated, and in August, the police officially closed the case against him.

Mr Paraka announced in March this year he would be launching a lawsuit to clear his name, saying his citizen's rights had been breached, but the Anti-Corruption Squad's case against him remains open.

According to the letter from Mr Damaru, Mr Devete had been due to be a witness in upcoming prosecutions related to the alleged corruption, where he would have to provide evidence against members of the PNG Government, including Mr O'Neill, and was concerned for his safety if he returned.

He has been living in Australia since 2013 as a student, along with his wife and children, all of whom are seeking protection visas to stay in the country.

The FCC ordered the family be allowed to apply for asylum, after immigration officials and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) initially rejected their claims in 2017.

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Philip Kai Morre

Former solicitor general Neville Devete and others who are trying to fight corruption in PNG must be protected even if it means seeking protection in Australia or other countries.

Mr Devete is a threat to corrupt leaders in PNG and there is no guarantee that he and his family will be protected in PNG. I hope Australia will allow him and his family to stay as long as they want.

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