PNG Corruption Investigator Seeks Australian Support

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Koim: Australia has an interest due to the large amount of aid sent to PNG

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, June 24, 2014) – Papua New Guinea corruption investigator Sam Koim says Australia should take a greater interest in the case against his country's Prime Minister Peter O'Neill.

Mr O'Neill was issued with an arrest warrant last week after an investigation by the now defunct anti-corruption body, Taskforce Sweep, into alleged multi-million dollar payments to a law firm.

O'Neill has denied the charges, claiming they were politically motivated, and responded by disbanding the anti-corruption body as well as sacking the attorney general and deputy police commissioner.

Previously Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the political situation in PNG was an internal matter.

But speaking to the ABC's 730, Mr Koim says Australia should be keeping a close eye on any investigation as a large amount of its taxpayers' money has been used to develop Papua New Guinea.

"Australia spends on average about $500 million to Papua New Guinea annually, and part of that money is spent to develop the rule of law in our country," he said.

"Right now what's happening is not a political situation, it is the enforcement of the rule of law.

"The institutions of government are trying to uphold the rule of law and one person is using his position and power to undermine the rule of law."

Koim has flown to Australia to seek the Australian Government's help in pursuing his corruption investigation, which has been curtailed after O'Neill disbanded Taskforce Sweep.

He says the evidence against O'Neill is strong and worth pursuing.

"We basically made an assessment of the case and we found that Mr O'Neill knew that the bills were improper and he dishonestly directed the bills to be paid to a law firm that did not deserve those bills," said Koim

"The evidence was tested and corroborated independently and we reached a firm belief that there is a case."

O'Neill says the letter authorising the payments is a forgery which did not originate from his office.

Koim said the investigation suggests between $20 million and $25 million was paid by PNG's Department of Finance as a result of the directive, with some of the funds making its way to Australian bank accounts.

He says while he's seeking Australia's backing for his investigation, he's not suggesting it should withdraw support for O'Neill.

"The call (on) whether Australia should take an action or not is it's Australia's call," he said.

"I cannot ask the Australian Government or demand Australia to do that.

"But for us, we have a strong case to pursue. It's not only my own ... different authorities are involved in separately reaching one and the same conclusion."

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