BY TREVOR WAHUNE
A legal assistant at a law firm has been arrested and charged with several counts of money laundering, embezzlement, pretense and conspiracy.
Tabitha Malken, 40, from the village of Jambitenget, Wosera, East Sepik province, was arrested and charged by police for allegedly participating in the facilitation of money totaling K 15 million which belongs to the trust account of Western Province Peoples’ Dividends, which was held by the Australian Bank of New Zealand (ANZ) and then transferred to Young and William’s Lawyers trust account between August 2018 and 2021.
She is charged with 18 counts of money laundering, 17 counts of embezzlement, 16 counts of false pretext and two counts of conspiracy.
Malken, who is the law firm’s legal assistant, is currently on K2000 Police bond and is expected to be brought to trial in Waigani District Court tomorrow.
According to police records, Malken communicated in August 2018 via his company email address, sending and receiving messages from several employees of ANZ Banking Group (PNG) Ltd.
The purpose of these emails was allegedly to facilitate the transfer of K15million from the Western Provincial Dividend Trust Account (WPPDTA), held with ANZ Bank, to be paid into Young and Williams held with BSP bank.
When the payment was made, a formal complaint was filed with the Office of the Police Commissioner by North Fly MP James Donald, alleging that the transfer included other transactions totaling K268million that had been carried out under a false pretext.
He claimed that all of these funds were embezzled by the directors and management of Ok Tedi Fly River Development Foundation Limited (OTFRDFL) and Young and Williams.
It was further alleged that when police began investigating these allegations, several directors of the OTFRDFL board were involved with Young and Williams’ lead attorney Greg Sheppard.
The OTFRDFL board members allegedly involved were Edna Oai, Annie Smerewai and Boston Kasiman.
Police also allege that after payments were made to several bank accounts, one of which belonged to a Samson Jubi, who made a 10,000K transaction on Malken’s account.