Former Papua New Guinea prime minister Peter O’Neill has been charged with three counts of giving false evidence in a national US$1.2 billion loan inquiry contrary to Section 10 of the Commission of Inquiry Act.
He met reporters outside Boroko Police Station in Port Moresby today stating “this is politically motivated”.
O’Neill, who is also Ialibu-Pangia MP, was at the station for police formalities to be completed in the charges against him.
Earlier, the PNG Post-Courier’s Todagia Kelola reported that O’Neill had been requested to front up at the National Fraud Squad office at Konedobu by today for questioning on allegations of perjury.
In a short media statement on Saturday, Police Commissioner David Manning requested O’Neill to make himself available for questioning on allegations of perjury emanating from the UBS Commission of Inquiry into a loan negotiated with the Union Bank of Switzerland by his government in 2014.
In response, O’Neill said in a statement titled “Is Manning Police Commissioner or Chief of PNG Intimidation?”: “Firstly, I am surprised but heartened the Police Commissioner is working late on a Saturday evening.”
“Violent crimes, kidnap for ransom, rape, and murders along with crippling corruption have been skyrocketing since his time in the high office of Police Commissioner.
“I am sure it is comforting to all Papua New Guineans to know the Commissioner is choosing to go after me late on a Saturday night in what appears to be blatant intimidation rather than focus on keeping the people of Papua New Guinea safe.”
Commissioner Manning in his statement said: “Based upon investigations into the UBS Commission of Inquiry report, we are satisfied that Mr Peter O’Neill gave false evidence whilst under oath.
“I am appealing to Mr O’Neill to cooperate and make himself available by Monday morning to Director Crimes, Chief Inspector Joel Simatab, at the National Police Headquarters in Konedobu,” Manning said.
Commissioner Manning said the ultimate objective of the Commission of Inquiry was to establish whether there were breaches of PNG laws and constitutional requirements in the negotiation and approval of the UBS loan, whether PNG as a country had suffered as a result of the deal, and whether people involved could be held accountable.
“After a thorough investigation and assessment of the facts, we are satisfied and have sufficient evidence that Mr O’Neill has perjured the inquiry — thereby committing an offence under the Commission of Inquiry Act of giving false evidence under oath,” Manning said.
O’Neill, in his statement in response said: “It is nearly 12 months since the internationally presided over UBS Commission of Inquiry ended with no findings against me, and now, late on a Saturday evening, I am instructed via a media statement by the Police Commissioner to attend questioning on the next day, a Sunday,” said O’Neill.
“It appears that before I am questioned, Commissioner of Police in his statement seems to be directing his investigating officers to arrest and charge me of a crime of perjury while under oath in the UBS Commission of Inquiry.”
Court opportunity welcomed
“I welcome the opportunity to face the courts to test a politically motivated and very expensive Commission of Inquiry.
“I have faith in the fairness of the courts but not in yet another Police Commissioner instructed investigation into me.
“The perjury claim that I have learned of in Mr Manning’s statement is false.
“I can only assume he is referring to the unsubstantiated claim given to the COI by a self-serving politician.
“I will attend at 10am on Monday the 12th June 2023 for questioning at Konedobu Police HQ.
“I assure all supporters that I remain steadfast and more committed than ever to Papua New Guinea and the foundations of democracy.
“These terrible times we are all experiencing are temporary.”
The UBS COI final report in its answer to the question, “Who was responsible and what remedies should be sought against them”, recommended that O’Neill should be prosecuted for giving false evidence to the Commission and referred to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).
Todagia Kelola is a PNG Post-Courier reporter. Republished with permission.