24 Jun 2008

PNG Prime Minister loses court bid to stop probe into his finances

7:27 pm on 24 June 2008

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Michael Somare has lost a court bid to stop an investigation into his personal finances.

Sir Michael went to PNG's National Court in a bid to halt a probe by the Ombudsman's Commission into allegations he had failed to properly lodge information about his assets, income and business connections.

But Justice Derek Hartshorn has dismissed his bid for an injunction.

Sir Michael's lawyers had argued that some of the matters dated back 20 years, and would be impossible to defend given the amount of time that had lapsed.

But Justice Hartshorn disagreed, saying Sir Michael had failed to present a strong enough argument to warrant a permanent injunction.

The prime minister's lawyers said they would appeal the decision.

They said there were legitimate reasons why some of Sir Michael's financial returns may have been offered late or incomplete, and said the allegations were too old to be valid.

They said the Grand Chief had moved house a number of times during the period in question, held different political positions, and personal staff responsible for the information had left his office.