PNG court dismisses challenge to legality of arrest warrant for PM

8:02 pm on 8 August 2017

Papua New Guinea's National Court has dismissed a challenge to the legality of an arrest warrant for prime minister Peter O'Neill.

The case had been filed by the former Police Commissioner, Geoffery Vaki, over the warrant issued by the District Court against Mr O'Neill in 2014.

Papua New Guinea prime minister Peter O'Neill.

Papua New Guinea prime minister Peter O'Neill. Photo: PNG Blogs

This warrant stemmed from an investigation by anti-fraud police into alleged illegal state payments of around US$30 million to a lawfirm, Paraka Lawyers.

Justice Collin Makail today dismissed the challenge, saying that the subject of the case was an abuse of court process as the arrest warrant was not reviewable.

He said the criminal process was about fairness and must be heard in a reasonable time frame.

Mr Vaki's case was in addition to a series of other legal challenges by Mr O'Neill's legal team which until now ensured the execution of the warrant remained frozen in PNG's court system.

Since filing the review when he was Police Commissioner in June 2014, Mr Vaki has been replaced by Gary Baki as Commissioner.

Papua New Guinea Police Commissioner Geoffrey Vaki

Papua New Guinea Police Commissioner Geoffrey Vaki Photo: RNZI

It remains to be seen whether Mr Baki will allow the arrest warrant to be executed.

He previously tried to have the arrest warrant rejected, and sidelined Matthew Damaru and Timothy Gitua of the National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate who originally obtained the a warrant.

As recently as June, Mr Baki lodged a legal application for a judicial review of the establishment of the anti-corruption unit Taskforce Sweep.

It was after Taskforce Sweep's initial investigation into fraudulent payments from PNG's Finance Department that the anti-fraud detectives sought to arrest Mr O'Neill.

Today's ruling finds the PNG court system again upholding the legality of the warrant.

Matthew Damaru, PNG

Fraud Squad head Mathew Damaru has been at odds with Police Commissioner Gary Baki over the arrest warrant for Peter O'Neill Photo: Supplied

In 2014, Mr O'Neill repeatedly refused to go in for police questioning over his alleged role in the Paraka payments. He has characterised the probe as a political witch-hunt.

It is understood his lawyers are seeking to obtain a stay order to delay the effect of today's court dismissal.

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