Seven months after Papua New Guinea hosted the APEC summit, it has yet to sell off a fleet of Maseratis and Bentleys it purchased to provide VIP transportation. Initially, government officials promised that the cars would sell “like hotcakes.”
One of those officials was James Marape – Finance Minister back when the cars were purchased, but now the new Prime Minister of PNG.
Back in February, before he took the top job, he told Australia’s ABC that he still believed the cars would get a good price.
“Perhaps, time will disprove me,” Marape said, “but we received serious indication from people, in fact, one of them offered to buy 20 of them.”
Four months later, 41 Maserati Quattroporte sedans and two Bentley Flying Spurs are parked in a dusty shed in Port Moresby. One Maserati and one Bentley were sold, another Bentley was delivered to the Governor General as a gift.
The minister responsible for the APEC summit, Justin Tkatchenko, said the sales process had been mishandled; he said the government failed to set a reserve price for the cars, so the offers that came in were unrealistically low. Now, the process will have to start over and Tkatchenko admitted that people have lost interest.
Last fall, many criticized the purchase as an extravagance for a country that struggles to provide its people with basic services.
Bryan Kramer, then one of those critics as a leading voice in the opposition, is now James Marape’s new Police Minister. According to RNZ Pacific, he plans to open an investigation into how the government purchased ten million dollars worth of luxury cars from a small dealership in Sri Lanka.
RNZ Pacific also reports that PNG’s National Intelligence Organization has uncovered a plot against the new police minister.