PNG chief secretary’s complaint prompted arrest of former PM O’Neill

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PNG former prime minister Peter O'Neill speaks to media
PNG former prime minister Peter O'Neill speaks to media outside Boroko Police Station . . . three charges over "delusive evidence" in US$1.2 billion UBS loan inquiry. Image: PNG Post-Courier

By Gorethy Kenneth and Majorie Finkeo in Port Moresby

The arrest of Papua New Guinea former prime minister Peter O’Neill yesterday was prompted by a complaint by Chief Secretary Ivan Pomaleu to the Commissioner of Police David Manning after reviewing the UBS Commission of Inquiry Report.

In a major incident brief for police obtained by the PNG Post-Courier, Chief Secretary Pomaleu, as the custodian of government’s commission of inquiries and submissions, made a referral on the recommendation of the UBS Report on the US$1.2 billion loan inquiry to police as an investigative authority.

Pomaleu referred the COI report to the Commissioner’s office to commence its investigations on the 5 June 2023.

“The Office of the Chief Secretary to Government in its capacity as the custodian of government’s inquiries and policy submissions including decisions implementations made a referral on the recommendations in the report to police as an investigative authority to cause an investigation,” the police major incident brief detailed.

“On the 05th of June, 2023 the Chief Secretary to Government referred the COI Report to the Office of the Commissioner of Police to commence investigation in the report.

“In the view of the report an obvious infringement was noted to be breached during the COI,” it detailed.

According to the summary of facts, on the 8 June 2023, O’Neill was brought in to the Special Investigation Team office at Airport Police Station, 7 Mile, upon a complaint of offering “delusive evidence” at a Commission of Inquiry.

Three counts of perjury
Yesterday he was charged with three counts of giving false evidence under oath in the Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS) loan, Commissioner of Police David Manning confirmed.

O’Neill was later released on OR — own recognisance, granted by Commissioner Manning.

The police major incident brief also stated that police conducted a clinical analysis to see whether or not the responses given by the defendant before the Commission on 17 June 2021 were false.

In the responses, the defendant denied having knowledge of any transactions made between Oil Search and Elk-Antelope.

He also denied having any agreements/discussions and correspondences about any potential investments with Oil Search and Elk-Antelope in 10 percent shareholding acquisitions and placements.

Further investigations and deliberations conducted into the recommendations in COI discovered that statements and information produced before it by O’Neill between 2011 and 2019 were false and misleading when presented before the commission.

“Police had to look at the Commission of Inquiry report with several volumes including the transcripts of the COI going over three years.

‘Further investigations’
“Following further investigations by police it was discovered that statements and information produced by Mr O’Neill between 2011 and 2019 were false and misleading when presented before the commission, and contradicted National Executive Council Policy Submission 67/2014 on financial arrangements for the state acquisition of shareholding in Oil Search Limited and state borrowing,” Commissioner Manning said.

“From police investigations, the evidence gathered confirmed that the answers given before the commission were flawed and untrue,” he said.

Subsequently, three charges were laid on Peter O’Neill today as follows that he:

  • Did appear as a witness of the 17th of June 2021 before the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Processes and Procedures Followed by the Government of Papua New Guinea into Obtaining the Off-Shore Loan from the Union Bank of Switzerland and Related Transactions and given false evidence on oath, that he had “no knowledge whatsoever” of what Oil Search Ltd intended to do with the money paid by the State for the purchase of Oil Search shares in 2014, and that Oil Search Ltd intended to use the money paid by the State for shares in Oil Search Ltd to purchase an interest in PRL-15 Elk Antelope, before the Royal Commission of Inquiry;
  • Did appear as a witness of the 9th of August 2021 before the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Processes and Procedures Followed by the Government of Papua New Guinea into Obtaining the Off-Shore Loan from the Union Bank of Switzerland and Related Transactions give false evidence that, “there was never any discussion” about Oil Search Ltd using the money paid by the State for the purchase of shares in Oil Search Ltd to buy an interest in PRL-15 Elk Antelope and “this information did not come to the government’s notice or particularly at the leadership level” before the said Royal Commission of Inquiry; and
  • Did appear as a witness of the 17th of February 202 before the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Processes and Procedures Followed by the Government of Papua New Guinea into Obtaining the Off-Shore Loan from the Union Bank of Switzerland and Related Transactions give false evidence on oath that “there was never any discussion” about Oil Search Ltd using the money paid by the State for the purchase of shares in Oil Search Limited to buy an interest in PRL-15 Elk Antelope and “this information did not come to government’s notice”.

Gorethy Kenneth and Majorie Finkeo are PNG Post-Courier reporters. Republished with permission.

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