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.