PNG Prime Minister says fraud allegations ‘politically motivated’

 

PNG PM Peter O’Neill speaks exclusively with SBS

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has denied allegations of fraud, after a warrant was issued for his arrest by the country’s anti-corruption watchdog.

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The warrant relates to allegations Mr O’Neill personally authorised the illegal payment of about 31 million dollars to law firm Paul Paraka lawyers.

Speaking to SBS, Mr O’Neill 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.”

 

It’s believed Mr O’Neill will front police today.

PNG’s Opposition first raised the allegations last year, when Opposition Leader Belden Namah produced a letter allegedly bearing Mr O’Neill’s signature and authorising the payments.

In January, Task Force Sweep announced Mr O’Neill had no case to answer following interviews with staff at the Prime Minister’s Office, as well as checks of their outgoing correspondence register.

Also in January, the Opposition produced three National Court warrants for Mr O’Neill’s arrest over the affair, however the government successfully had them overturned.

The Paul Paraka affair – called Parakagate in Port Moresby – is one of PNG’s longest running fraud investigations. Mr Paraka, one of the most powerful lawyers in PNG, was arrested and charged in 2013 for allegedly receiving the state monies.

Task Force Sweep alleges the payments were spread over a seven-year period and ran into the “hundreds of millions”.

In May last year, Mr O’Neill threatened to sack everyone in his finance department over the alleged scam involving top officials and lawyers.

Mr O’Neill commands a huge majority in PNG’s single house of parliament, with roughly 95 out of 111 MPs supporting his government.