LAWYERS have defrauded the Government of an estimated K1 billion in the past six years, according to Attorney-General and Justice Minister Kerenga Kua.
Kua told a PNG Law Society seminar in Port Moresby on Ethics and court etiquette that lawyers were using their skills, education and knowledge to steal from the country.
Kua was, until the 2012 general elections, a principal of law firm Posman, Kua, Aisi Lawyers.
He said of the 1,100 registered lawyers (there are many more who do not hold practising certificates), a few were failing the rules of ethics or professional conduct in such a serious way so as to bring serious disrepute to the legal profession.
“I don’t want to pluck figures out of the blue. But I think in the last six years or so, lawyers would have been involved and assisted in committing fraud against the State that could be easily be estimated close to K1 billion,” he said.
“That’s a lot of money and that reflects very badly on our profession.
“That is a matter of concern to me and I’m sure it is of concern to each and every one of you.
“We are supposed to be the people who are supposed to understand the law and understand the rules.
“We are supposed to be the people to guide and advise everybody else in proper behaviour and proper conduct which is legal, ethical morally and legally,” Kua said.
Kua, who at one point was the lead lawyer in the O’Neill/Somare standoff, warned that the Government was serious about clamping down on the “fraud evaded, abetted and engineered” by lawyers.
Kua said in the next few days, weeks and months the Government would be moving to clean up the landscape, so that “we don’t use our skills, education and the knowledge that we acquired through investment by our own people through the use of their money”.
“We have been given a very good education to earn a good life but we use it to steal from them again.
“That does not make sense to me,’ he said.
“All the talking has to come to a stop one day.
“We cannot move on everybody because of the limited resources and skills that are available to the government.
“But a start has to be made to drive the point home that the government is capable of moving to deal with this issue instead of burying it under the carpet forever, and destroying the image and reputation of the legal profession.
“I am not going to sit idly by and wait for lawyers to use the special privileges given to them by our country to commit fraud on their own country and to continue unabated.”
Kua warned lawyers who brought the legal profession into disrepute would be dealt with according to law.
“We are moving on it. I want to assure you that if there’s a few of you who are bringing your profession into disrepute.
“We as leaders will demonstrate our capacity to move to deal with you,” the minister said.
“We will deal with the big fish among you and slowly we will spread our net to catch those involved.”