Controversial PNG Businessman, Eremas Wartoto Appears in Court

PORT MORESBY - A controversial Papua New Guinean businessman has been charged with more fraud offences after returning from an extended stay in Australia.

Eremas Wartoto appeared in a Port Moresby court on Tuesday charged with two offences - conspiracy to defraud and false pretence - regarding the use of a government grant of more than $4.6 million (US$2 million) to set up an airline.

The magistrate said Wartoto was accused of conspiring with former planning minister Paul Tiensten to misuse the funds.

Wartoto had been living in Australia since 2011 after he was charged with misappropriating a $3 million (US$1.3 million) PNG government grant to rebuild a high school.

He returned to PNG after it was revealed earlier this month that he had been living in Cairns on a 457 visa, which Australia's foreign minister Bob Carr has since cancelled.

Outside the court Wartoto denied he had been hiding in Australia.

“No way. I pay taxes in Australia,” he said.

Courts in both PNG and Australia have ordered the seizure of Wartoto's Australian bank accounts while investigations continue.

Several properties in Queensland have also been seized.

Wartoto has been released on bail and Tuesday's court hearing has been adjourned to July. [IslandBusiness]
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