at no time in my political career have I received inducements or bribes...nonetheless, I take this opportunity to apologise to my people for the shame and embarrassment
An American man and his Chinese-Singaporean wife were convicted last week in Singapore over a 2010 bribery and money laundering scam they ran with former PNG Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare.
Singaporean Lim Ai Wah, 61, was given five years' jail, her 68-year-old American husband, Thomas Doehrman five years and 10 months.
The scam worked like this.
Somare's Government approved a community colleges project and stipulated that a Trust Fund be established to contract with and pay construction companies.
The proceeds of a loan from a Chinese Bank and PNG Government resource royalties went into the fund.
Doehrman, an executive with Quest Petroleum which was involved in oil and gas projects in PNG was a Trustee of the Trust.
Doehrman and his wife Lim acquired a British Virgin Islands shelf company, Questzone Offshore to hold the corrupt payments and pay corrupt participants.
Questzone raised false invoices for $3.6Mto a $35M Chinese contractor to the Trust, ZTE Corporation. ZTE employee Li Weiming who was part of the $3.6M conspiracy approved the payments to Questzone.
Li jumped bail and is wanted on a Singaporean warrant, but both Lim and Doehrman swore statements stating bribes had to be paid to Somare to get business from PNG.
$784,000 USD was paid into Somare's Singapore bank account in late 2010.
Last week our website reported on Somare's 2010 close association with the Clinton Foundation in the proposed Pacific Medical Centre super-hospital project.
The circumstances of the Singapore convictions are eerily similar.
In November 2009 a 20 million establishment/facilitation fund was set aside from the 2010 PNG budget.
It was earmarked for the Pacific Medical Centre to be announced by the Clinton Foundation at its 2010 Clinton Global Initiative.
Our reported included this analysis of the overall PNG Government's budget:
the accountability of the trust funds set up to handle windfall mineral revenue.....remain a concern......significant expenditure pools are reported via disclosure of opening and closing balances with no insight into the expenditure in between.
The spectacular spending (about $1BN AUD in 2009)......... has not gone away.
"I wish to state that the 3 payments labelled ‘Housing’…were made for the purpose of helping PM PNG to pay for his house and his son to pay for a separate house (in Cairns, Australia)…Hence the US$280,000 and US$224.000…were meant for the PM PNG’s use of housing loans."
"Sometime in 2010, I received a call from the son of PM PNG asking me to send money to him. I told him the amount set aside for him was US$280,000 but since he did not have an account in Singapore, I wrote a cheque to PM PNGs bank account and told him to pass the money to his son…”
"if you don’t pay to the PM PNG you will not be able to get business from PNG."
Singapore Public Prosecutor Alan Loh told Judge Ng Peng Hong in the Singapore District Court, "the fact that some of the laundered money was traced to then PNG prime minister Sir Michael Somare’s bank account in Singapore will cause public disquiet.`
“The sentences imposed on Doehrman and Lim must reflect the seriousness of the present offences which include illicit payments made to a foreign prime minister.
“This is a very significant case in Singapore’s fight against corruption and money laundering”.
He added: “Singapore should not be seen as a haven for slush funds to pass through to the hands of errant or greedy politicians. A strong deterrent message must be sent to safe-guard Singapore’s position as a clean and corrupt free environment for business transactions.”
Somare’s Singapore bank account with US$301,000 has been frozen.
Here is the Singapore Corrupt Practice Investigation Bureau's report on the matter.
And here is the first page of the charge sheets.
The charge sheets and other court documents are here.
Somare says the court has it all wrong, it wasn't him.
Statement from former PM Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare
“I wish to make this address to the nation of Papua New Guinea in response to recent reports from Singapore.
“A court case has found two persons in Singapore guilty of money laundering offences and subsequently names me as a recipient of some funds.
“I have taken steps to get clarification and legal advice on this matter, but I would like to state from the outset that at no time in my political career have I received inducements or bribes.
“At first glance these charges say otherwise. Therefore, during the next few days, I will consult with my family and legal counsel and consider how to address this matter.
“Nonetheless, I take this opportunity to apologise to the people of Papua New Guinea, my people of East Sepik and my family for the shame and embarrassment these reports may have caused.
“I have no further remarks to make at this time.”
PS - as an aside to this story of the American, his Asian wife, their Panama papers offshore bank accounts and the corrupt payments from PNG.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists website includes this disclaimer:
There are legitimate uses for offshore companies and trusts. We do not intend to suggest or imply that any persons, companies or other entities included in the ICIJ Offshore Leaks Database have broken the law or otherwise acted improperly.
Nor do I.
But it's worth looking closely at the Clinton Foundation's PNG operations given Grand Chief Bill's closeness to Somare at the time.
After all, Sir Michael and Bill Clinton are Joint Holders of the Grand Companion, Chief of the Order of Logohu of Papua New Guinea.
Grand Chief Bill's representative in PNG was Ruby Shang. Here she is at Sun Yat Sen's Centennial Celebrations in Beijing in 2006.
And here's her profile at the Panama Papers.
Ruby's also a director at সুযোগ.
If, like me, you'd never heard of সুযোগ or Shujog, here's the Our Story section from সুযোগ's website.
Shujog catalyzes positive impact to create opportunity for equitable growth and social betterment. Alongside its sister entity IIX (Impact Investment Exchange), Shujog firmly believes in bringing finance and development together for social good.
Shujog and IIX are a culmination of founder Professor Durreen Shahnaz’s varied experiences in finance, academia, and international development. Durreen’s career of two decades brought her from Morgan Stanley on Wall Street to rural villages in Bangladesh through Grameen, to founding a global e-commerce site – OneNest – that empowers local craft-makers, many of whom are women.
Here's Ruby's সুযোগ bio
Ruby Shang, Senior Advisor, Clinton Foundation
Ms. Shang has been a senior manager at the Clinton Foundation since 2003, establishing the Health Access Initiative in 7 countries and the Climate Change Initiative in 11 cities. She first implemented the Clinton Health Access Initiative in China as Country Director. She assisted the Chinese Ministry of Health in successfully implementing a national Care & Treatment program for HIV/AIDS, focusing on Yunnan province and the Xinjiang Special Autonomous Region. Subsequently, she was responsible for starting up the Clinton Health Access Initiative in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea as Regional Director for SE Asia.
In 2008, Ms. Shang assumed additional responsibility for the Clinton Climate Initiative in China, Japan, Korea, as well as SE Asia, implementing sustainable Energy Efficiency Programs for Building Retrofit and Solid Waste with the 11 city governments, as well as Forestry programs with the National Forestry Ministries in Cambodia and Indonesia.
Like I said, just because your name is in the Panama Papers, it doesn't mean you're a crook.
Ruby, of 80 Raffles Place #35-01, UOB Plaza 1 SINGAPORE 048624 is married to an American who calls himself Mr Vietnam, the larger than life Anthony Salzman. Who is Mr Vietnam? Anthony's bigger than big website is glad you asked.
Remember Bill Clinton and Anthony and Ruby?
It turns out that VTRAC and Ruby and Mr Vietnam actually have quite a web of connections recorded in the Panama Papers, including Ruby and Tony's Cook Islands offshore setup.
None of that means Ruby has done anything wrong.
But making false and misleading statements to a corporate regulator in Papua New Guinea to cause the unlawful incorporation of a fictional association does.
PNG was a wild west kinda place back in 2006 when Bill Clinton was made a joint grand chief of the sovereign nation, alongside Sir Michael the kickback king.
It's difficult, Bill and Hillary, to find photos of Bill's 2006 visit with Sir Michael, in fact it's difficult to find any photos of the two Grand Chiefs side by side at all. It's as if someone has gone through the Getty Images and other usual repositories that record Bill's every step and stripped out all the photographic evidence of the two old mates standing together.
We found this photo in a magazine that was published at the time of Bill's 2006 visit for his investiture in the Order of Logohu.
Last week, in our report we spoke about the unmissable corruption that reasonable persons operating corporate or charitable foundations with due care and diligence ought to have been aware of in PNG at the time.
Well it turns out that we weren't the only ones who noticed that PNG was 20 spots further down than Mugabe's Zimbabwe in November 2009.
It made the proud nation's 6 o'clock news!
November 2009 was the exact time that Sir Michael was slipping that 20 million out of the PNG Government's 2010 operating budget, the 20 million that was going into a pool for facilitation/establishment expenses associated with the super-hospital with the Clinton Foundation backing.
So imagine that. How embarrassing. Of all days for the potentate's luxury private jet to turn up - it has to come on the day the corruption index comes out!
What a beautiful, sleek machine. Travelling in style for a couple of Grand Chiefs plus harem.
Sir Michael and mates avoided the queues with their own luxury-class bird when they needed to slip over to New York 3 months later for their meeting with Bill about the hospital.
But on that November day in 2009 the rigours of the 2010 budget process and worries about other people's money faded into the background. By the time the jet completed its marathon journey to get there, well it'd travelled half way across the world, who'd have known what would be in the news when she arrived.
The occasion was marked by a marching band, fire trucks spraying water and the joy that only those who've known that 'new plane smell' will understand.
A brand new Dassault Falcon with P2-ANW was now a part of Sir Michael's life.
And you'll never guess where she started her journey. Where she was luxuriously kitted out in Presidential Style, fit for a global potentate and kickback king.
Someone had tipped Sir Michael off about where the best deals on jets for southern hemisphere heads of state were to be found.
Sir Michael popped around the corner to buy his jet from the Dassault dealership at Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport, Little Rock, Arkansas, USA!
What a small world!