Monday, September 28, 2009

Kond words

Ilya Gridneff who works for the Australian Associated Press (AAP) in Port Moresby has broken a number of excellent stories on the whole Papua New Guinea forest carbon saga. A few days ago he filed another fascinating chapter in the saga, which you may not have had a chance to read as it was not picked up by the papers*.

Its a fascinating story, Carbon Planet has been paying a company called Nupan which has then been paying the vice-president of the country's ruling party, James Kond, as a consultant who offers to "assist you to secure endorsement of these projects for carbon trading from the PNG government".

By Ilya Gridneff

PORT MORESBY, Sept 24 AAP - A Papua New Guinea governing party power broker was paid 200,000 kina ($A85,000), ultimately funded by Australian environment firm Carbon Planet, for "consultation" on carbon trading deals central to a pending investigation.

James Kond, PNG's ruling National Alliance (NA) party vice-president, received the money on May 14, 2008, as part of Carbon Planet's $1.1 million spend with companies in PNG for carbon projects they predict are worth a billion dollars a year.

Documents obtained by AAP show Carbon Planet's money went through Hong Kong-based company Forest Top, that then paid a number of entities including Australian businessman Kirk Roberts and his PNG company Nupan and its local facilitator Kond.

On April 16, 2008, Kond signed a memorandum of agreement with Forest Top, Roberts and Nupan assuring his work would earn him "10 per cent of the net cash flow generated from carbon credit sales".

Kond's Western Highlands Province-based business Koo management was: "to liaise with and advise the PNG government" on Nupan's deals that Carbon Planet would then broker for the global voluntary carbon market.

Kond stands by the deal and says there was no conflict of interest.

"It is a confidential business arrangement and none of your business about the way we do business," he said.

"I've been deputy NA leader for 10 years and doing my part to improve PNG and to help policy (and) there is no need for these investigations.

"I have not dealt with Carbon Planet, I invited Kirk (Roberts) to PNG and receive money from Nupan as their country representative."

Adelaide-based Carbon Planet declined to respond to questions.

Kond's other Nupan responsibilities included: "to bring together all of the parties and other persons required to achieve the commercialisation of the carbon credits from the specific present and future projects in PNG".

In a series of letters obtained by AAP, Kond writes to Roberts on December 28, 2007, suggesting PNG's Kamula Doso forest in Western Province and April Salome forest in East Sepik as potentially lucrative future carbon trading sites.

"I will personally be there to assist you to secure endorsement of these projects for carbon trading from the PNG government as I am part of the PM Somare government through being an executive member of the NA ruling party that has direct influence on shaping government policy," he writes.

In February, 2008, Kond urges PNG Prime Minister Michael Somare to meet him and experts from Australia.

"I am delighted to inform you we have already secured two projects for this carbon trading program," he said.

"I am now seeking a formal appointment ... to brief you on this matter."

Somare's media spokesperson Betha Somare, who has seen the letters, said: "The PM has never met Kirk Roberts or his associates".

AAP understands PM Somare's then chief of staff Theo Yasause met Roberts and also met several members of Carbon Planet.

Yasause later became PNG's Office of Climate Change (OCC) director but was suspended pending an investigation that includes why the office went bankrupt in less than a year of operating.

The investigation will also delve into a series of "sample" carbon trade documents Yasause signed as OCC director as well as a mandate to assure international carbon deals.

Acting OCC director Wari Iamo in a newspaper advertisement on August 31 said PNG was waiting for United Nations endorsed carbon trading rules, expected after the Copenhagen climate summit in December.

"Carbon trading agreements cannot be legally signed over these (PNG) lands until the government has put in place an appropriate policy and legal framework," he said.

Carbon Planet in July announced a merger with Australian publicly listed company m2m Group, saying they had 25 potential carbon trading projects in PNG that could generate $1 billion a year.

But Carbon Planet has not said where their PNG projects are, what the landowners benefits are, nor do they recognise that the 800,000-hectare Kamula Doso forest is subject to a court injunction on projects.

Carbon Planet's merger with m2m is "continuing with some delay arising from the complicated and novel circumstances of this emerging industry," m2m said in a statement.

AAP ig/mo/cdh

* A note about Wire Services
To explain, Gridneff's employer AAP is what is known in journalistic lingo as a "wire service" or news agency. Other well-known agencies include Reuters, Press Association and Agence France-Presse. With correspondents around the world these agencies provide, electronically, wholesale news for their subscribers -- the world's main retail news companies (newspapers, radio and television), who may then chose to publish it.