Australian lawyer Greg Sheppard – father to three members of the Brisbane band Sheppard – has been arrested in Papua New Guinea for the second time this year and charged with misappropriation and money laundering.
In a media statement, the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary said Sheppard was arrested in the capital Port Moresby last Tuesday, June 8 and charged with two counts of misappropriation and two counts of money laundering.
The charges relate to the alleged misappropriation of 268million kina (AUD$98million) from a trust fund designated for impoverished communities impacted by the Ok Tedi mine, the Western Province People’s Dividends Community Mine Continuation Agreement (WPPD CMCA) trust fund.
Papua New Guinea police alleged the money was illegitimately deposited into the accounts of Young & Williams Lawyers and the Ok Tedi Fly River Development Foundation (OTFRDF). Young & Williams is the law firm that acts for the foundation and at which Sheppard is a partner. NME has reached out to Young & Williams Lawyers for comment.
Two transactions totalling 52million kina (AUD$19million) were allegedly deposited into the law firm’s account, and three totalling 216million kina (AUD$98million) were allegedly deposited in the OTFRDF account.
The news follows Sheppard’s previous arrest in January, when he was charged with two counts of conspiracy and two of false pretence in relation to the same investigation. He now faces a total of eight charges.
At the time, a Young & Williams spokesperson said the charges were “politically motivated” and would be “defended vigorously”.
Sheppard’s new charges are linked to his alleged direct involvement in two transfers totalling 52million kina. Police allege that once the money made it to accounts operated by Young & Williams, Sheppard used it to make transactions that were unrelated to the intended purpose of the WPPD CMCA TA funds.
Police say that one of these alleged transactions involved 30million kina (AUD$11million) that Sheppard allegedly transferred to a separate trust account belonging to Young & Williams Lawyers, held with Westpac Bank PNG Limited. Acting on a court order allowing them to search the account, police allege that Sheppard had exhausted the sum of 30million kina (AUD$11million), though police said they were unable to determine what the money was spent on.
“It is alleged that when the sum of K52 million was under the possession of the defendant’s trust account held with BSP, he exhausted the funds with transactions that had no direct correlation with the implementation of developments projects and programs in the CMCA Communities in Western Province, thus that amounts to misappropriation of those funds,” the police statement reads.
Greg Sheppard is the father of three members of the indie pop band Sheppard: George, Amy and Emma Sheppard. He and his wife financed the group early on in their musical careers, with a 2014 Sydney Morning Herald report saying that “a few years ago” they “decided to pour their life savings into their children’s music careers”.
When contacted by NME, Chugg Music head Andrew Stone said that “any pseudo-management or financial support provided to the group as a family” was before Chugg Music began to manage Sheppard in 2012 “and isn’t relevant to their success as a group”. The band Sheppard have not received any funding “from any sources outside their own endeavours as a group for their entire professional career”, he said.
Stone declined to comment on the legal proceedings involving Greg Sheppard.
“Dad rejects these latest false claims and will fight them vigorously,” said Amy Sheppard in a statement provided to NME. “He predicted that the previous claims would not succeed in court, and so far no evidence has been produced. There is an action before the courts next week to have that matter struck out, and so all of a sudden we have the same false claims being presented again. We are certain these will prove baseless as well. We support our Dad 100 per cent.”
In a statement issued January following Sheppard’s first arrest, a Young & Williams spokesperson said, “One of our firm’s partners has been charged after he successfully fought the PNG Government on behalf of the OTFRDF to reclaim funds that belong to the people of the polluted region whose lives have been devastated by the pollution of the Ok Tedi mine.
“After our successful litigation we obtained court orders which allowed our client to take control of these funds. We have acted under the instruction of our client at all times and all transactions have been in accordance with the PNG court order.
“Young & Williams is the only major law firm in PNG that does not work for the government, and as such we are one of the only law firms willing to take legal action against the government on behalf of clients. The charges levelled against our firm’s partner are politically motivated and follow the PNG Government’s failure in the court system. The charges will be defended vigorously.”
The OTFRDF also said in January that the transfers PNG police allege are illegitimate were legal. “Attempts to arrest members of our board, including Edna Oai, follows these successful legal actions,” the foundation said in a statement reported by the Guardian. “It is an unlawful attempt by powerful forces in PNG to keep control of money that rightfully belongs to the pollution-affected people of the Fly River region.”