Chris Haiveta: A Slippery Fish?
UPDATE: A new endnote was added to this report on 20 October 2020.
Sandline International – a British mercenary firm – planned to use heat seeking missiles and other heavy-duty armaments on Bougainville. It would almost certainly have been a bloodbath, with major civilian casualties. So a mine could be reopened.
Only unprecedented social mobilisation by the people, and a coup organised by General Jerry Singirok, prevented the slaughter.
It is hard to imagine any political leader would seek to profit personally from such a contract. But this is the ‘irresistible conclusion’ reached by a Commission of Inquiry:
The Commission has reached the irresistible conclusion that the money Mr [Chris] Haiveta transmitted from Switzerland was a corrupt and improper payment [from Sandline International].
Fast forward two decades, in 2017 Chris Haiveta was elected to Parliament for a fourth time. He is also a businessman, owning a network of companies. Little is publicly known about their operations.
Currently the Governor for Gulf Province, Haiveta has served in various senior Ministerial positions including Deputy Prime Minister (twice), Minister for Finance and Planning, Minister for Planning and Implementation, Minister for Fisheries, Minister for Labour and Employment (twice), Minister for Housing, and Minister for Mining.
Before that Haiveta joined the Department of Provincial Affairs as an Executive Officer and occupied various public service positions including Secretary for the Department of Gulf and Economic Advisor and Chief of Staff in the Prime Minister’s office (1988-92).
During his political career, Haiveta is centrally implicated in three of the biggest scandals in Papua New Guinea’s post-independence history – the Sandline affair, the National Provident Fund fraud and the Cairns Conservatory scandal.
Haiveta has also been linked by the National Intelligence Organisation to illegal logging and unlawful campaign financing. He narrowly escaped a Leadership Tribunal over accusations of financial impropriety after losing his parliamentary seat in the 2007 elections.
While a significant body of evidence has underpinned the inferences drawn by these official inquiries, nevertheless, it appears to date this evidence has not been used by the government to pursue a conviction in Court.
The law though might be about to finally catch up with Haiveta.
He is currently facing the prospect of a new Leadership Tribunal being appointed to hear the charges of financial misconduct that were put on hold when he lost in the 2007 election.
The Sandline Affair
The Bougainville conflict cast a long shadow over Papua New Guinea for more than a decade. As many as 20,000 people died.
In 1994 a new government led by Prime Minister Julius Chan and his Deputy Chris Haiveta declared solving the crisis a top priority.
In January 1997, an increasingly desperate Chan secretly signed a US$36m contract with a private military company, Sandline International. They would supply mercenaries and equipment to defeat the Bougainville Revolutionary Army and take control of the Panguna mine.
Haiveta played a key role. He met Sandline founder, Tim Spicer in London, inviting him to PNG, and assisted with the financing of the contract.
However, after the mercenaries arrived in Port Moresby during March 1997, they were rounded up by the PNG Defence Force.
Chan and Haiveta were forced to resign after 10 days of public protests. Three months later, both Chan and Haiveta lost their seats in the National Elections.
An initial Commission of Inquiry into the engagement of Sandline was highly critical of the contract. It singled out Haiveta for particular criticism, reportedly finding parts of his evidence untruthful and his actions and motivations suspicious.
In July 1997, a second Commission of Inquiry (CoI) was appointed to look further into the Sandline affair.
The initial report issued by this second Sandline CoI, specifically excludes mention of Chris Haiveta. Haiveta had launched a National court action to gag the Commission.
However, a second CoI report dealing specifically with Haiveta’s role was eventually presented to Parliament in September 1998.
No copy of that second report seems to be publicly available. However, we can learn plenty about the findings from the court action initiated by Haiveta.
The National Court quotes a key section from the second Commission of Inquiry report:
In all the circumstances the Commission suspects that Chris Haiveta stood to gain personally from the Sandline Contract. It suspects he received a corrupt and improper payment, but given the seriousness of such a finding and the consequent need for certainty, the Commission is unable to come to a conclusive finding that Mr Haiveta received such a payment on that evidence alone.
The suspicion however was confirmed when a subsequent piece of evidence came to light. That was the evidence that Mr Haiveta bought a house in Port Moresby and a part of the payment was made in Australia with the funds from an account in Switzerland. Mr Haiveta fought tooth and nail through his counsel to stop this evidence going in by cross-examining the Investigating Officer Mr Palmer at length. The basic evidence was not destroyed by the lengthy character assassination and English language gymnastics only confirmed the evidence. We found Mr Palmer to be frank and truthful. Despite the attacks upon him, nothing we heard damages his good character. The Commission has subsequently received bank documentation further confirming the transfer of funds of which Mr Palmer gave evidence. This transaction occurred some three months before the Sandline Contract saga. Nevertheless the Commission believes that it may have been connected to that contract… The Commission has reached the irresistible conclusion that the money Mr Haiveta transmitted from Switzerland was a corrupt and improper payment.
The National Court refused Haiveta’s application for leave to challenge the Commission of Inquiry report.
However, there appears to be no evidence on the public record the Commission findings were taken any further by the police.
Both Chris Haiveta and Sandline have denied there was ever a corrupt payment.
Cairns Conservatory fraud
In October 2000 it was announced the State was suing former Prime Minister Julius Chan, his Finance Minister Chris Haiveta and Australian property developer, Warren Anderson for $30 million in damages over the Cairns Conservatory purchase.[i]
It was alleged that the three men had conspired to procure the purchase of The Conservatory building in Cairns by the Public Officers Superannuation Fund (POSF) at an inflated price and then have the State lease it at an inflated rental.
The Conservatory was allegedly bought by Mr Warren Anderson for $9.75 million in October 1994. It was sold on a month later, in November 1994, to the POSF for $18.72 million. The property was to be used as a PNG government hub in Queensland.
An Auditor’s General’s investigation into the affair presented to Parliament in late 1997 reportedly argues that Chan and Haiveta were ‘the driving forces behind the purchase’.[ii]
An Ombudsman Commission report presented in December 1999 after a four-year investigation, noted that an independent assessor valued the property at $7 million. The implication being that POSF paid over double the market value.
Transparency International add: “This building was … purchased outside the proper tendering process without any feasibility studies with significant political interference”.
The Ombudsman Commission concluded that “associates of Sir Julius, including his own political party, stood to make a considerable financial gain” from this and associated transactions.
Additionally it was noted by the Ombudsman Commission that the State was paying under the head lease, more than three times the market rental to POSF.
The Ombudsman Commission recommended in its report that POSF’s board should consider taking court action to recover money lost as a result of the purchase, that the Government’s lease be terminated, and that disciplinary charges be laid against 15 named officials.
Transparency International claims the PNG government spent nearly $1 million preparing legal action to recover costs for this deal gone awry. However, it is reported the court case ‘was later dropped’.[iii]
According to Transparency International, ‘the Attorney General failed to serve the warrants and no action has ever been taken against the culprits’.
Distinguished constitutional lawyer, Dr John Nonggorr, who filed the writ in Port Moresby on behalf of the government, suggested a decision was taken by the NEC not to pursue the case as a number of people in Cabinet were named in the court proceedings.
The Ombudsman Commission did a follow up on its recommendations in 2000. It found ‘overall, the implementation of recommendations relating to specific public officials has been poor’ and ‘the Commission considered this shows a general unwillingness to make people accountable for their actions’.
[i] Australian Financial Review, 6/10/2000, ‘$30m damages claim on Anderson, Chan’.
[ii] The Australian, 10/2/1998, ‘PNG to sue over building’.
[iii] Governance, Risk & Compliance Monitor Worldwide, 7/6/2018, ‘The Australian governments hypocritical stance on PNG corruption’.
National Provident Fund Scandal
Just a few years after the Sandline crisis and Cairns Conservatory debacle, Chris Haiveta was embroiled in another infamous scandal. The Commission of Inquiry into the National Provident Fund fraud rocked PNG in 2002 when its findings were published.
Although not identified as one of the key beneficiaries of the fraud and mismanagement, Haiveta was one of a number of high profile figures recommended to face further investigation and possible prosecution.
In Haiveta’s case he was referred to the Ombudsman Commission for investigation under the Leadership Code in relation to decisions made and actions taken as Minister for Finance. These included:
- failing to obtain Department of Finance or other expert advice before approving a K1 million trade in equities;
- an improper request for K1,600 to be paid to singsing groups;
- approving the purchase of shares without expert advice.
There is no evidence any of these matters were ever taken up by the Ombudsman Commission and investigated further.
The CoI also variously found that as Minister, Chris Haiveta:
- irregularly appointed Evoa Lalatute as chairman of the NPF in January 1996;
- invalidly approved a fee of K20,000 a year for chairman David Copland;
- acted improperly in approving loan arrangements without advice from his department.
For a more complete examination of the NPF fraud see ‘The NPF Tower Fraud’.
Chris Haiveta has also been tied by the authorities to illegal logging and foreign campaign financing.
According to a National Intelligence Organisation (NIO) Field Trip Report, dated June 2000, the Office of Counter Intelligence visited Baimuru in Gulf Province ‘following numerous reports of irregular and suspicious dealings by a foreign logging company’ [page 2]
According to the report, an agreement to allow logging by Turama Forest Industries (TFI) was not signed by genuine landowners or people who represented them. It is alleged certain ‘people were blackmailed and bribed’ into signing the agreement. They were evidently told their community would not receive rural development funds from MP Chris Haiveta unless they signed [page 3]
Chris Haiveta is identified as a ‘principle character’ involved in facilitating the logging deal. He and Riddler Kamave were allegedly the ‘project coordinators’.
It is claimed [page 5] Haiveta personally gave K20,000 in October 1993 to set up a landowner company ‘Kaia Koriki Investment, but the money was not used for the intended purpose and was pocketed by one Ian Onai Namari‘.
In return for the political support from Haiveta and Kamave, it is alleged TFI assisted the pair in their election campaigns in 1997. A sum of K500,000 is mentioned [page 5] and a further K40,000.
The NIO field report recommended a follow-up investigation by the Department of Forests, Fraud Squad, NIO and other government agencies to confirm the findings and prosecute those responsible.
It is not known if any further action was ever taken but in September 2000, a second NIO report contained additional allegations. It states that Haiveta as Deputy Prime Minister wrote to the Forest Minister supporting the extension to logging operations in Gulf Province after having been ‘softened up with the payment of some monies’.
The extension was granted despite, according to the NIO report, ‘clear evidence of malpractice, bribery and proper procedures not followed’. [page 5]
These NIO reports have led to accusations that the whole of Gulf Province has been sold out by its leaders to illegal logging by Malaysian companies.
Chris Haiveta has also been accused of supporting the infamous Kiunga-Aiambak logging project in Western Province. It is alleged in 1997 Haiveta as Minister for Finance provided the operation with an unlawful tax concession and attempted to provide direct government funding. It is claimed Haiveta was acting against the advice of the Internal Revenue Commission and as a result of the concession, the State lost over K6m in taxes. [page 11]
Chasing the oil
South Pacific Resources Limited is an Australian registered public company.
According to its website, the company owns five petroleum prospecting licences in Papua New Guinea. Three onshore and two offshore, ‘in the highly prospective Papuan Basin close to discovered oil & gas fields’.
Although it is not immediately apparent from the public record, PNGi has uncovered that Chris Haiveta has a strong ownership connection to South Pacific Resources Limited, one that dates back to 2010.
In October 2009, Haiveta registered the company Coral Sea Petroleum Limited in Papua New Guinea. Haiveta was the sole director and shareholder and he personally signed the company registration forms.
Six months later, in April 2010, Haiveta was approached by Indo Pacific Energy Pty Limited, an Australian registered company, and agreed to sell Coral Sea Petroleum to this foreign suitor.
At the time, according to its annual return, Coral Sea Petroleum (CSP) had no staff and no assets. According to the CSP Board Minutes Haiveta sold the company for K1. Although no longer a shareholder, Haiveta did stay on with CSP as a Director and Company Secretary until 2014.
But, in fact, this was not the end of Haiveta’s beneficial interest in Coral Sea Petroleum. Just two months after selling it in June 2010, Haiveta was issued with 45 shares, just over 20% of the issued capital, in Indo Pacific Energy Pty Limited. He was effectively re-acquiring – but now offshore – a 20% stake in CSP.
The other 79.5% of the shares in Indo Pacific were owned by another Australian registered company, Minimum Risk Pty Ltd (owned by a Christopher Domenic Martino, described as a ‘business ally’ of Clive Palmer).
In August 2012, both Chris Haiveta and Minimum Risk transferred their shares in Indo Pacific Energy to another Australian registered company, Coral Sea Petroleum Ltd.
With that transfer, the Australian registered Coral Sea Petroleum Ltd became the beneficial owner of the PNG registered Coral Sea Petroleum Limited, which now changed its name to Coral Sea Petroleum (PNG) Limited.
But still this was not the end of Haiveta’s interest in the PNG company he had registered in 2009. In the same month Haiveta transferred his shares in Indo Pacific Energy to the Australian registered Coral Sea Petroleum Ltd, it was announced he had acquired 11,250,000 shares in the Australian company, a 9.59% stake.
So, despite the sale of his interest in Coral Sea Petroleum Limited to Indo Pacific Energy and then the sale of Indo Pacific Energy to the Australian registered Coral Sea Petroleum, Chris Haiveta still maintains a beneficial ownership interest and with it a major stake in an Australian publicly listed company.
In a further twist to this story, in February 2015, Coral Sea Petroleum Ltd changed its name to South Pacific Resources Ltd.
A few months later, in September 2015, the Australian registered South Pacific Resources Ltd acquired two further PNG registered companies, Pacific Shale Gas Limited and South Pacific Resources Limited.
Extracts and other company documents for South Pacific Resource Ltd subsidiaries in PNG.
Company reporting issues
Three Commissions of Inquiry, Ombudsman Commission investigations, and a probe by the National Intelligence Organisation and yet we are still not at the end of Chris Haiveta’s brushes with authority.
PNGi has identified five companies owned entirely by Chris Haiveta and a further four companies in which has a substantial shareholding.
The man at the centre of the National Provident Fund scandal, Jimmy Maladina, is company secretary for two of the companies owned by Haiveta.
All the companies Chris Haiveta owns or part owns are listed on the Investment Promotion Authorities Defaulting Companies list as being in arrears with their annual returns.
In fact, of the 9 companies, only 1, the boat charter business, Southern Star Limited has ever filed any annual returns, the last one for 2012. That revealed the company had no employees and had liabilities that exceeded its assets by K2.9m.
Outstanding Leadership Tribunal
Despite enjoying the unenvious accolade of being censured for corruption and impropriety in numerous investigations conducted by state authorities, it appears the evidence used by these authorities has not been subsequently employed in court.
But has the worm turned?
In May 2018 it was announced a Leadership Tribunal will be appointed to hear charges of misconduct against Chris Haiveta relating to his previous terms in office between 1993 and 2003.
The 28 charges he faces relate to
- Failure to give annual statements on time for the period 1993-1994 to 2001-2003,
- Misapplication of K1,405,500 of provincial support grants,
- Failure to acquit provincial support grants for 1999-2001,
- Misapplication of K524,000 of public funds for 2001 and
- Misapplication of K250,000 provincial support grants for 2002.
Haiveta was originally referred to the Public Prosecutor by the Ombudsman Commission in relation to these alleged offences in January 2006.
A leadership tribunal was appointed and began its enquiries in September that year. After apparently overcoming funding issues[iv], it was adjourned in May 2007 because of the upcoming National elections.[v]
Haiveta’s lawyer had previously, in April, made an unsuccessful bid to have the case dismissed for insufficient evidence.[vi] Although Haiveta was to remain suspended from Parliament while the Tribunal was in recess, he was allowed to contest the election.
As it turned out though, Haiveta did not retain his Parliamentary seat. Because he was no longer subject to the Leadership Code the tribunal was never reconvened and the charges have remained pending ever since.
In a twist to the story, it appears Haiveta was not impressed at being referred by the Ombudsman Commission. In response to the original charges in 2006, he himself made a complaint of misconduct in office against the Chief Ombudsman, Ila Geno. The matter was referred to the Ombudsman Appointments Committee which found the allegations were not worthy of further investigation.
Haiveta is still maintaining his innocence and says he intends to challenge the decision to appoint a new Tribunal to hear the changes against him.
It remains to be seen if after 20 years of scandal the evidence accumulated against Chris Haiveta will finally be used in an attempt to meet the threshold of proof required (beyond a reasonable doubt) to secure a successful conviction in Court.
On 27 July 2020, the National Court declared that the public prosecutors decision to seek a new Leadership Tribunal to hear allegations of misconduct against the Chris Haiveta for offences that were committed some 18-27 years ago and some 13-years after the original tribunal was disbanded, was harsh, oppressive and unfair and breached the plaintiff’s Constitutional rights.
A permanent injunction was granted preventing the appointment of a new tribunal and Haiveta’s suspension from office was lifted.