20 Jan 2003

Solomon Islands government expects huge grant next week

6:36 am on 20 January 2003

The Solomon Islands government says it should get a 350 million US dollar grant from a Bougainville based group by the end of this week.

Sir George Lepping who headed a task force to consider an offer from the mysterious Royal Assembly of Nations and Kingdoms says they decided to recommend it because there was no risk to the country.

He says they got involved after the group presented a letter of introduction from Bougainville leaders, Joseph Kabui and Francis Ona.

Sir George says another former militant Sam Kauona was with the group when it made its presentations.

The Assembly has links to a failed pyramid scheme in Papua New Guinea which collapsed, owing millions of dollars to its members.

The grant has been widely criticised, with the Central Bank Governor suggesting it is a scam.

But Sir George says the test will be whether it arrives this Friday as agreed.

"If it comes it comes, if not there is nothing more we can say. But because it went through the system, the cabinet papers and all that when ministers were there and that's how we went through it, and then the government signed that document."