Tuesday, 4 November 2008 3:07 PM

Deal With RIPEL Issue Urgently: Sasako

Veteran journalist and former Member of Parliament, Alfred Sasako, is urging the Government to set up a commission of inquiry into the Russell Islands Plantation Estates Ltd [RIPEL] fiasco immediately, saying there's too much at stake.

Alfred, who has written a series of investigative articles on the company, says claims by businessman Patrick Wong of being owed $46 million in debt raised more questions than answers.

"There are a lot of holes in the claim," Alfred said.

"For example, why didn't Mr. Wong register his finance company, Cross Pacific Trading Pty Ltd's debt with the provisional liquidator, but instead chose to pursue a pre-receivership claim? It does not make sense," Alfred said.

He said the latest maneuver by Mr. Wong in claiming a Government Minister demanded $3 million from him is nothing more than a clever ploy to divert attention from the real issue.

"It is for this reason that I appeal to the Coalition for National Unity and Rural Advancement [CNURA] to waste no time in entertaining such a claim. It's nothing more than a litany of imagination, choreographed to divert attention," he said.

Alfred said the real issue is how CPT, a company that appeared to be an unregistered entity in a foreign country, managed to have so much money in its coffers to lend in the first place. Why did not Mr. Wong register the claim with the provisional liquidator?

"And where was this money supposed to have been spent, given the fact that RIPEL had never traded for donkey years, its workers have never been paid and the other 141 creditors have not been paid to date?

"Of course, we will not get to the bottom of all these until all RIPEL books are audited and a commission of inquiry is held into this whole debacle. There's more to this than what meets the eye, I'm sorry," Alfred said.

"I know Mr. Wong will support a full audit and a commission of inquiry because it is an opportunity to clear his name."

"And as I said before and will say it again, only a full and an uncompromising audit of all RIPEL books followed by a commission of inquiry will clear the air," Alfred said.

Alfred said he stands by his suggestion on the way forward in dealing with this matter.

"As I have suggested, the first thing the Government ought to do is to take up a caveat on Mr. Wong's action, institute a full audit of all RIPEL books supported by RAMSI and the Auditor General's Office, and finally set up a commission of Inquiry.

"My reason for suggesting a caveat is that it would give stakeholders time to organize themselves for the massive work ahead," Alfred said. "We must get to the bottom of this."

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