Pressure on PNG PM to clear his name over fraud case

3:13 pm on 9 August 2017

Papua New Guinea's prime minister is being urged to take the opportunity to clear his name regarding an alleged fraud case.

The National Court yesterday dismissed a challenge to the legality of an arrest warrant for Peter O'Neill issued in 2014.

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill on the election campaign trail in Chimbu Province.

Fresh from victory in the national election, Peter O'Neill is again under pressure over a major fraud case Photo: PMO Media

Anti-fraud police had been investigating Mr O'Neill over alleged illegal state payments to a lawfirm.

It was Matthew Damaru and Timothy Gitua of the National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate who originally obtained the arrest warrant for the prime minister in 2014.

The challenge was filed by the former Police Commissioner, Geoffrey Vaki, soon after a District Court issued the warrant - this and other legal challenges to the warrant had kept the matter tied up in the courts ever since.

Yesterday, Justice Collin Makail dismissed the case as an abuse of court process, saying the criminal process must proceed in a reasonable time frame.

"The case has been dragging on for three years. It's created a perception that he's guilty, that's what he's trying to suppress," said Mr Damaru, who said Mr O'Neill was assured of a fair hearing.

"If he's innocent, just come to the fraud squad office, present himself, and [the fraud squad will] have him processed, and then he can go to court and defend himself."

It's understood Mr O'Neill previously refused to go in for questioning on the matter when it came to public attention in 2014. He said he was innocent of any alleged fraud, and characterised the investigation as a political witch-hunt.

Matthew Damaru, PNG

Fraud Squad head Mathew Damaru had been under pressure at various points over the investigation which sought to question Peter O'Neill. Photo: Supplied

The onus is now on the current police commissioner, Gary Baki, to decide whether the arrest warrant is executed.

Mr Damaru said he was to meet to discuss the matter today with Mr Baki who previously opposed the investigation.

"The Commissioner is fully aware because I've given him a detailed report in May on the prime minister's case and the warrant of arrest and all that, in anticipation of when the court makes its ruling," said Mr Damaru.

He said he would be presenting the commissioner with a copy of the court's ruling and asking Mr Baki to acknowledge that it was now time for execution of the warrant.

Mr Damaru added that the legal team for Mr Baki, who was a plaintiff in the challenge ruled on yesterday, might appeal the ruling in the Supreme Court.

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