PNG MINISTER DENIES BUYING PROPERTY IN SAMOA

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Somare’s son also reported to have bought in Australia

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, July 18, 2009) – A SENIOR Papua New Guinea Government minister has been linked to the purchase of prime properties in the South Pacific nation of Samoa.

Forest Minister Belden Namah was named by the Samoa Observer newspaper in a front page report yesterday as the major buyer of prime properties, worth more than K4 million, in the capital, Apia – a claim he denied.

The Government of Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare is already embroiled in a similar controversy back home, with the Government gagging debate in Parliament last week about the circumstances surrounding Public Enterprises Minister Arthur Somare’s purchase of a K1.2 million property in the far north Queensland town of Trinity Beach, near Cairns, recently.

The Opposition said last night it would demand answers from Sir Michael on Mr Namah’s property dealings in Samoa.

Mr Namah’s lawyer yesterday threatened to sue the Samoa Observer over the report, saying: "He has merely facilitated an investment arrangement between one of his overseas business partners and his local Samoan partner.

"Mr Namah’s association with these property investments has been with and through his local partner and as the contact for his business partner abroad," his lawyers, Tuala & Samau Lawyers, said in Apia.

The Samoa Observer reported yesterday: "Eyebrows were raised recently when it emerged a Papua New Guinea Cabinet Minister has started buying prime properties around Apia.

"This week it has been revealed Belden Namah, PNG’s Minister of Forests, has spent and committed a total of more than S$5 million buying local properties.

"He arrived in Samoa several months ago and started negotiations to purchase those properties."

"Included in them is Chan Chui Co Ltd on Taufusi Road, one of Apia’s oldest companies. It was bought for ‘more than S$2 million’, confirmed Mr Namah’s lawyer in Apia, Siaki Tuala, on Wednesday.

"Mr Paul Chan Chui, who is understood to be the person to speak to on this purchase, could not be reached for a comment.

"But Chan Chui’s two-storey building has since been pulled down. It looks as if a new building will be built to replace it.

"The second purchase is of a two-storey home at Papaloloa which Mr Namah bought for S$1.49 million," the Samoa Observer reported.

However, Tuala & Samau Lawyers said yesterday that none of the investment properties named in the newspaper story were registered or held in Mr Namah’s name.

"This is because he has merely facilitated an investment arrangement between one of his overseas business partners and his local Samoan partner, whom his business partners have met and trust.

"Mr Namah’s association with these property investments has been with and through his local partner and as the contact for his business partner abroad.

"They have viewed and negotiated for the properties together and hence the misconception that you have further fuelled that he is the buyer for all these properties.

"His role in all this is to facilitate the investment arrangements with his local partner and provide advice and feedback regarding the properties back to his overseas business partners.

"This investment in property is in no way illegal or unusual and is a positive benefit to our economy and for all those concerned," Tuala & Samau Lawyers said.

Attempts by The National to contact Mr Namah for further comments yesterday were unsuccessful.

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