SANDLINE MAKES BID FOR PNG FUNDS

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (March 9, 1999 - PACNEWS)---The British mercenary group, Sandline International, is set to seize US$ 6 million in agricultural subsidies donated to Papua New Guinea by the European Commission.

The move is part of an aggressive worldwide legal battle by Sandline to recover US$ 25 million from PNG, according to The Australian newspaper.

Sandline is focused on money deposited in a Brussels bank account last year in the name of the Central Bank of PNG.

Sandline Commercial Adviser Michael Grunberg said bailiffs in Belgium served notice on the Banque Bruxelles Lambert last Friday, compelling the bank to hand over the US$ 6 million. He said the funds have already become the money of the PNG Government and, therefore, under Belgian law, the bank is required to hand the funds over.

The Sandline claim for US$ 25 million follows the judgement of international arbitration conducted last year that found the US$ 36 million contract with PNG to launch a covert assault on Bougainville to be valid under international law.

PNG Prime Minister Bill Skate, who has vowed to fight Sandline's claim, condemned the move, saying aid should be off limits. He said first Sandline wanted to carpet bomb Bougainville, now they are trying to take money that is intended to pay for medicine and build hospitals in Papua New Guinea.

The disputed funds were paid to PNG under the EC's Lomé Convention, which aims to make up shortfalls suffered by developing States when the price of an agricultural commodity declines, affecting export revenues.

Sandline, which declined to pursue another account held at BBL for donations to victims of last year's Aitape tidal wave, rejected claims that the funds are aid donations.

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