PNG leader could face a Leadership Tribunal
Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister could face a Leadership Tribunal after a referral by the Ombudsman Commission over a controversial government loan.
Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister has expressed disappointment at the manner in which the Ombudsman Commission has referred him to the Public Prosecutor.
This comes as the attempts to arrest Peter O'Neill over allegedly illegal payments to a law firm remain unresolved.
Mr O'Neill has now been referred on three allegations involving a controversial state loan of 1.1 billion US dollars obtained from the Australian branch of the Swiss bank, UBS.
The Government wanted the money to buy back shares in the petroleum explorer, Oil Search.
As our correspondent, Todagia Kelola, told Don Wiseman the Government had previously had Oil Search shares but sold them to an Arab company so it could buy into the huge liquified natural gas project.
TODAGIA KELOLA: At the time when those shares were sold to the Arab companies, PNG was not really financially stable at the time, and PNG also wanted to participate in the LNG (liquid natural gas) project and the government at the time tried to seek financial assistance from the World Bank and other financial institutions and those financial institutions didn't want to give any loans to the government. Only the Arab company at the time agreed, so the PNG government gave the shares away to the Arab company to obtain shares in the LNG project. But there was a time frame so now that the LNG scheme has come into play the government wants to buy back those shares from the Arabs but the Arabs refused. What Prime Minister Peter O'Neill is saying is that the loan that was made with UBS was to buy back the shares but the Arab people were not willing to sell, but the Government wanted to have some new shares in Oil Search, that's why they went to obtain that loan. But according to the Ombudsman, proper procedures and the manner in which the loan was executed leave a lot to be desired.
DON WISEMAN: The Prime Minister has pretty much dismissed this though and he calls it a politically motivated move.
TK: Yes, in his statement he says it's been politically motivated.
DW: That's particularly a snipe at his former Treasurer Don Polye is it?
TL: The Ombudsman has yet to officially announce the Prime Minister's referral but the funny thing is while we did not get any advice or official confirmation from the Chief Ombudsman Commission on the referral, the Prime Minister's office released a statement expressing the Prime Minister's disappointment.
DW: So we've got this situation with the Prime Minister describing it as politically motivated, expressing his disappointment, what happens next?
TK: When we spoke with the Chief Ombudsman, what he said was that they had already referred him [Mr O'Neill] to the Public Prosecutor so the ball is now in the Public Prosecutor's court, where he, as the Public Prosecutor, will peruse all the documents and allegations given to him by the Ombudsman Commission. If he thinks that there is a prima facie case for the Prime Minister to enter into a [Leadership] Tribunal then he requests the Chief Justice to set up a Tribunal to hear this allegation.
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