14 Apr 2020
A Brisbane house and three Australian banks are now at the centre of a money laundering probe into a $US10.3 million payment made by the ASX-listed Horizon Oil to a company linked to a senior minister in Papua New Guinea.
The Australian Financial Review has been told Westpac Banking Corp, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Macquarie Group have all lodged Suspicious Matter Reports (SMRs) with the regulator, AUSTRAC, in recent weeks.
The payment, made in 2011, is being re-examined following an investigation by the Financial Review which found that $US10.3 million was transferred to a shell company controlled by the former personal lawyer of William Duma, PNG’s then petroleum minister.
Mr Duma, currently PNG’s Minister for Commerce and Industry, is facing a corruption investigation by authorities in Port Moresby, while the Australian Federal Police are also looking into the matter.
Horizon Oil terminated its chief executive Michael Sheridan on February 28, saying his position was “untenable”. The oil company has also written down the value of its PNG assets and is conducting its own investigation into the payment.
Since the Financial Review’s investigation was published all three banks have re-examined their records and reported the suspicious transactions to AUSTRAC, according to sources with direct knowledge of the matter.
They have also linked part of the $US10.3 million payment to the purchase of a $1.5 million house in the Brisbane riverside suburb of Indooroopilly.
Mr Duma’s family lived in the house soon after it was purchased, while his two sons attended the nearby St Peter’s Lutheran College, a private school which now charges up to $66,287 a year for full fee-paying international boarders in years 11 and 12. Mr Duma’s family no longer occupies the house.
One source, after being shown a photograph of Mr Duma, said Mr Duma was among those who inspected the Glencairn Avenue house with two other men.
The house was bought in November 2011 just a month after Horizon Oil made its final payment to a PNG shell company, Elevala Energy Limited, which was controlled by Mr Duma’s former personal lawyer, Simon Ketan.
The house was purchased in the name of Baccarat Investments Solutions, a company controlled by Darrell Seeto, a former Macquarie Group private banker.
By Angus Grigg and Jemima Whyte, The Australian Financial Review, 14 April 2020
Read more at The Australian Financial Review
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