17 Jun 2014

PNG PM announces inquiry into Paraka payments

7:30 pm on 17 June 2014

Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister Peter O'Neill has announced another Commission of Inquiry to look into all the legal fees paid to Paraka Lawyers.

This comes a day after an arrest warrant was served on Mr O'Neill in relation to his alleged involvement in illegal payments of US$29 million in state funds to a law firm headed by Paul Paraka.

While the Prime Minister's lawyers are seeking an injunction to the warrant, Mr O'Neill has refused to appear for police questioning.

He has denied the allegations against him, describing them as a politically motivated stunt, saying the warrant is suspicious and based on false allegations.

Meanwhile, police say they will respect interim restraining orders and not arrest the Prime Ministe until they are lifted.

The National Court today ordered police to not arrest the Prime Minister until matters surrounding an arrest warrant issued against him are heard tomorrow morning.

Lawyers representing Peter O'Neill are expected to submit a response to an affidavit filed on behalf of the anti-corruption unit Task Force Sweep, in relation to alleged unlawful payments to Paraka Lawyers.

The Deputy Commissioner, Simon Kauba says police will await the outcome of the case before deciding what action to take.

Mr Kauba says Mr O'Neill should embrace and welcome the opportunity to clear his name, and invited the Prime Minister to voluntarily make himself available for an interview tonight.

The inquiry which Mr O'Neill has announced will be headed by the former Judge Warwick Andrews, with more details - including the terms of reference and cost - to be announced later.

A previous Commission of Inquiry into dealings within the Finance Department which wound up last year uncovered many payments to Paraka Lawyers.