14 May 2008

PNG's Prime Minister admits meeting Taiwanese officials involved in cash scandal

8:41 am on 14 May 2008

Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare, has admitted meeting with Taiwanese officials who have since resigned over the $US30 million 'diplomatic cash' scandal

The disappearance of the money, intended for PNG as development aid, has already led to the resignations of three senior Taiwanese figures, including Vice Premier Chiou I-jen and Foreign Minister James Huang.

Sir Michael said he met Mr Huang and Mr I-jen in both formal and informal settings like the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings and Pacific meetings in Fiji and Tonga.

But Sir Michael insisted that PNG switching diplomatic recognition to Taiwan was not the issue when he met with Mr Huang in 2007 at a Singapore hotel.

He told Parliament it was was a casual encounter and it was a coincidence they were both staying at the same hotel.

He also reiterated PNG's commitment to a one-China policy that favours Beijing.

PNG's Planning Minister Paul Tiensten, parliamentary public accounts committee chairman Timothy Bonga and lawyer Florian Gubon, have all denied receiving any cash when meeting officials in Taipei in August 2006.