Former Papua New Guinean Prime Minister Charged with Providing False Evidence in Government Investment Inquiry
Former Papua New Guinean Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has been charged with providing false evidence in an inquiry into a multi-million-dollar government loss on an investment deal.
The lodged charges
The charges were lodged by the police and relate to O’Neill’s tenure as the government’s leader in 2014. O’Neill, who continues to serve as a lawmaker in the country’s parliament, denied the three charges brought against him.
During his time as prime minister, O’Neill’s government secured a $1.3 billion loan through the Swiss-based investment bank UBS to purchase a 10.1% stake in the Australian stock exchange-listed energy exploration company Oil Search Ltd. However, the government later sold its stake at a loss, leading to a three-year inquiry into the deal. The inquiry concluded this year with a recommendation to charge O’Neill for providing false testimony. Each charge carries a potential prison sentence of 14 years.
O’Neill maintains his innocence, stating that he did not mislead the UBS Commission of Inquiry. He expressed his intention to contest the charges in court and criticized his political opponents, accusing them of playing a game to intimidate and harass him.
The current Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, James Marape, who served as the finance minister in O’Neill’s government during the purchase of the shares, revealed that the losses exceeded AU$340 million ($230 million).
Following the findings of the Commission of Inquiry, O’Neill was summoned to the police headquarters and subsequently charged. Police Commissioner David Manning stated that O’Neill’s arrest is the first in a series of arrests to come in connection with the inquiry.
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