Prominent Papua New Guinea lawyer, Paul Paraka has been sentenced to 20 years in prison.

He was eventually sentenced Thursday by the National Court following a protracted court battle that had lasted for almost a decade.

He was found to have misappropriated K162 million (US$44 million) belonging to the people of Papua New Guinea.

Paul Paraka, 54 of Western Highlands province, an owner of one of the country’s oldest and biggest law firm was immediately transported to the Bomana Correctional Institution to serve his time in prison after the Court handed down the decision of what could have been worse.

Convicted lawyer Paul Paraka was arrested and charged by police on 25 July, 2014 for dishonestly applying to his own use of more than K162 million (US$44 million) belonging to the state.

He was charged with five counts of misappropriation.

Between 2007 and 2011, he misused K162, 251,894.96(US$ 44. 22 million).

The monies were applied by way of cheques (65 cheques) in favour of a property investment company.

Justice Teresa Berrigan in considering the merits of the case, both aggravating and mitigating factors, said Paraka was saved from the maximum penalty which is 50 years jail time.

Justice Berrigan said this misappropriation case is the first for the country considering the amount of money involved making it to be the “worst kind warranting the maximum penalty on this basis alone”.

“This was not a case of breach of trust.

“The offender was not employed in the public service nor did he hold public office.

“Nevertheless, the fact that he was a lawyer and a senior lawyer at that, is a highly significant and greatly aggravating feature of the offender,” she said.

“In general terms the greater the money involved the more serious the offending,” she added.

She said such offences committed by experts in the law such as police officers or lawyers is “strongly condemned” by the Court as it brings a bad name to the Justice System of the country.

“They bring the law and those who serve it into disrepute.

“And further undermine the confidence in our system of Justice that is essential to maintaining the rule of law,” Justice Berrigan said.

“In addition, this was an elaborated scheme conducted via multiple transactions and the use of the offender’s own property investment company multiple law firms through which the payments were funnelled for each year of the five consecutive years that the offending took place, demonstrating careful planning and calculated design to avoid detection and the offender (Paraka) from the money,” she added.

In May this year, Paraka was convicted for five counts of misappropriating State money between 2007 and 2011.

The Court found that in 2006 Paraka obtained three National Court orders trying to put a stop to the directives of the Chief Secretary, and decisions of the Attorney-General and the National Executive Council (NEC) to stop payments to Paul Paraka Lawayers and to terminate briefing out of State matters to PPL and other private law firms.

These matters were appealed by the State and remained on-foot until July 2014.

“Commencing on 24 April 2007, every year for five years between 2007 and 2011 Paraka procured a person or persons within the Department of Finance to dishonestly apply money to his own use and the use of others.”