Former Crown prosecutor arrested
STRIFE IN PNG
The three siblings in Brisbane indie pop band Sheppard are pumped up to release their third album next month.
But a pall has been cast over what should be a professional high for the group, which formed in 2009.
Their father (and ex-manager), Greg Sheppard, a former Crown prosecutor in Queensland, is facing a heap of strife in Papua New Guinea, where he has practised law for more than 30 years.
Sheppard was arrested last week in Port Moresby and charged with two counts each of conspiracy and false pretence in relation to the allegedly fraudulent transfer of nearly $100m of funds intended to help victims of the Ok Tedi mine disaster.
He was released on bail as both his law firm and the fund overseers spoke up on his behalf, denouncing the case as "politically motivated'' and vowing that it would be "defended vigorously''.
Police in PNG say their probe is ongoing and more arrests are expected in relation to the legal outfit and its client, the non-profit Ok Tedi Fly River Development Foundation.
That group was set up following the revelation from then-mine owner BHP Billiton in 1999 that huge amounts of contaminated discharge had been released into the river from the copper and gold operation.
The money was intended to assist stricken locals in the especially poor western province recover but critics say little of it has ever arrived.
A spokesman for Sheppard's firm, Young & Williams, said it had "successfully fought the PNG Government on behalf of the foundation 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,'' he said.
"Young and 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."
A foundation director was also arrested last week and charged with 15 offences related to the matter.
Critics allege the PNG government, which was removed as trustee of some of the funds three years ago, wants to improperly reassert control over the money.
ROBOTICS FIRM CRASH
A Queensland start-up company at the cutting edge of producing robotics for the military has succumbed to COVID-19 pressures.
Sunshine Coast-based Praesidium Global Pty Ltd collapsed this week, with founder and owner David Baird appointing an administrator over his stricken firm.
Baird, an ex-armed forces figure and electronics engineer from the UK, launched the company in 2016 and he managed to secure about $5m in contracts since then to produce "unmanned ground vehicles''.
After a contract with the Australian Defence Force wrapped up last year, he pivoted to export markets, focusing mainly on the UK and the Middle East.
But freight costs to the UK surged from $36,000 in late 2019 to $180,000 in March last year as the pandemic exploded, effectively wiping out any profit, Baird told City Beat on Wednesday.
COVID-19 also made it extremely difficult to meet in person for product demonstrations. "There's only so far you can go with data sheets and Zoom calls,'' Baird said.
While JobKeeper helped prop up the company, it didn't qualify for the second round late last year, putting added pressure on the business, which had six employees.
Baird estimated that his creditors, including former staff, are owed about $250,000 and he's not optimistic about the year ahead.
"I'll bounce back but there's still uncertainty with COVID-19 in the coming year so I don't see 2021 getting any better,'' he said.
CLEAN AND GREEN
Australia's traditional retailers may be under the pump from online rivals but, at least on one metric, they're absolutely smashing it.
We learned this week that the sector, including giants such as Woolworths, Bunnings and ALDI, are the leading corporate group committed to obtaining all their energy from renewable sources.
In the first report of its kind, a new study from Greenpeace found that retailers have almost double the commitment to renewable energy than any other industry.
It revealed that 28 of the nation's biggest companies will source clean power equivalent to that needed to supply 1.3 million homes. That's more than the electricity currently generated by the coal-fired Liddell power station.
"Clean energy commitments by major Australian businesses are now set to create solar and wind power equivalent to powering all the homes in Brisbane and Perth combined,'' Greenpeace activist Lindsay Soutar said.
Both Woolies and Bunnings announced late last year that they would switch to 100 per cent renewable power by 2025, focusing on wind and solar options.
Officeworks, ALDI and Telstra have also signed up, with pressure growing for outliers such as Coles and KMart to get on board.
NEW LEGAL CHIEF
For the first time in ages there's new blood at the top of fast-growing Brisbane law firm Barry.Nilsson.
The legal outfit, which opened its first office in the city in 1963, announced Wednesday that it had tapped chartered accountant Graeme Walsh for the CEO's job effective immediately following an extended search.
He replaces Don Leembruggen, who joined the firm in 1982 and retired as managing partner in the middle of last year.
Hiring a bean counter to lead a bunch of legal types may seem counterintuitive but Walsh has spent the past 11 years in the industry, most recently as CFO of rival outfit Colin Biggers & Paisley.
His hiring coincides with a wider restructure of the firm's management team.
Barry.Nilsson chair Rhett Kennedy described Walsh as a "standout from the beginning'' for the award-winning firm, which specializes in insurance, health and family law matters.
With more than 300 staff, including 28 principals, it has outposts in most of our capital cities.
Originally published as Former Queensland Crown prosecutor arrested