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Pacific News Minute: PNG Leader Stars on International Stage, But Faces Corruption Charges at Home


Last week, the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea met with President Obama here in Honolulu, in his capacity as the chair of the Pacific Islands Conference. Later this week, Peter O'Neill will take center stage to chair a meeting of Pacific Islands Forum, but, as we hear from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute, Prime Minister O'Neill continues to face corruption charges at home.

And he's not alone. Last week a court in Singapore found that Former Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare pocketed $800,000. Sir Michel's windfall came from a couple who spirited a $3.5 million fund out of Papua New Guinea to Singapore in 2010...money that was supposed to be used to set up community colleges. In a Statement, the former PM apologized for the shame caused to his country, but denied taking bribes.

The current Prime Minister's problems date back to his term as Finance Minister in Somare's government and his alleged involvement with a prominent law firm paid some thirty millions dollars for work that was never done.  Back in 2014, Prime Minister O'Neill evaded arrest with the help of his police commissioner, Gary Vaki, who advised The Prime Minster's lawyer to seek a judicial stay on the arrest warrant.  Vaki resigned after he was brought up in charges....abuse of office for tipping off a suspects lawyer, and perverting the course of justice, for stepping in to block the anti-corruption squad's attempt to execute that arrest warrant.

Yesterday, According to the Newspaper, the National, a judge found Vaki not guilty on the abuse of office charge.  He was convicted of perverting the course of justice last year...his appeal is pending. And that warrant for the Prime Minister's arrest?  It's still tied up in court, on one technical challenge after another.

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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