Last December, it looked as if Prime Minister Peter O’Neill had evaded a long running corruption charge when the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court quashed an arrest warrant. But now the lawyer at the center of the case has filed civil charges against the Prime Minister and others. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.
PNG’s Anti-Corruption Unit filed charges against Peter O’Neill as far back as 2011 for his involvement in a scheme that saw 30 million dollars of government funds paid to the most prominent law firm in the country for services that were, allegedly, never performed.
At one point, the case involved not just the prime minister, but the attorney general, the commissioner of police and several other senior officials. Every time the noose tightened, the Prime Minister’s lawyers managed to delay proceedings. At one point, he escaped arrest by ordering his attorney general to fire the investigators.
In 2016, anger over the allegations led to student strikes that paralyzed the country. But, last August, O’Neill led his party to another electoral victory and, in December, the supreme court dismissed the arrest warrant for technical deficiencies.
Yesterday, the head of the law firm involved announced a suit against the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister Rinbink Pato and several others. According to the Post Courier, Paul Paraka is seeking hundreds of millions in damages for defamation and loss of business.
“Those individuals who screwed me up, they’re going to pay me big compensation,” he told a news conference. “They’ll lose their jobs and privileges…and they’ll walk on the streets of Port Moresby, just the way I struggled.”
Paraka himself was arrested in 2013 and criminal charges are still pending.