Explosive new claims have alleged Papua New Guinea Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, was involved in “misappropriation, conspiracy to defraud and official corruption”, over the alleged payment of millions in goverment funds to a lawyer.
In a letter leaked to SBS by police sources,the head of PNG’s anti-corruption taskforcepresents new forensic evidence from an Australian firm. He says the new evidence proves Mr O’Neill’s was involved in the corruption scandal.
The Sydney-based forensic firm analysed a document, apparently signed by Mr O’Neill, which allowed a major PNG law firm to steal millions of dollars in government funds.
Mr O’Neill has strenously denied the allegations.
The letter, sent by the head of PNG’s anti-corruption taskforce Chairman, Sam Koim, to the police commissioner, said Mr O’Neill ‘authored the directive’ to illegally pay the law firm.
“There are corroborating evidences that confirm not only that (Mr O’Neill) authored the directive, but also confirm he intended to settle Paraka Lawyers purported outstanding legal bills,” the letter reads.
“(Mr O’Neill’s) directive compelled every public officer in the Department of Finance and Treasury to improperly draw funds…”
“After reassessing the case and analysing the available evidentiary matirals we have reached a considered belief that PM O’Neill acted dishonestly and corruptly when he directed Paul Paraka Laywers outstanding legal bills to be settled in full.”
Claims ‘motivated by politics’
On Monday, an arrest warrant was issued for the prime minister.
Speaking to exclusively to SBS, Mr O’Neill has denied the allegations and said he believed they were politically motivated.
“We have denied that these letters have come from our office and our lawyers are now taking charge of this matter,” he said.
“It is basically motivated by politics. There is a lot of political movement in the country.
“(The opposition) are using any avenue possible to try and discredit government and find a way to get me arrested.
“We have strong confidence in the judiciary up here….the truth will come out. We are fairly confident.”
The allegations were first raised last year by the Opposition leader, Belden Namah, who produced the letter that authorised the payments and allegedly showed Mr O’Neill’s signature.
Initially, Task Force Sweep said Mr O’Neill had to no case to answer, following an investigation. But later, the Opposition produced three warrants for Mr O’Neill’s arrest. The government had them successfully overturned.
Last year, Mr O’Neill threatened to sack the entire finance department over the alleged scam.
The investigation is one of Papua New Guinea’s longest-running fraud investigation. The lawyer at the centre of the allegations, Mr Paul Paraka, was arrested and charged in 2013 for allegedly receiving state funds.