Papua New Guinea PM Orders Probe After OCCRP Report
Papua New Guinean Prime Minister James Marape said Sunday he had ordered a government probe after an OCCRP investigation revealed questionable offshore payments apparently linked to top officials at the country’s state ports company.
The joint investigation with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) found that former PNG Ports head Fego Kiniafa and his predecessor appeared to have benefited from payments from a Singapore bank account belonging to Don Matheson, an Australian consultant who had worked for the ports company.
The payments came shortly after an global ports operator, Manila-based International Container Terminal Services (ICSTI), paid roughly US$4.35 million to Matheson’s newly established Singapore company. Amid these payments, in 2017, ICTSI won lucrative contracts to operate PNG’s two biggest ports.
The revelations come from the Pandora Papers, millions of files from service providers of offshore companies leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and shared with media partners around the world, including OCCRP.
Kiniafa was murdered last September in what local law enforcement believes is an unrelated case.
In a statement, Prime Minister Marape said he was “surprised” by the revelations in the OCCRP and ABC investigation. Matheson, a businessman with a checkered past from the Australian state of Queensland, had boasted of close ties to the prime minister. However, Marape said that, although he had played golf with Matheson, he had little knowledge of his business or background.
“I have called for our National Intelligence Organisation and [Internal] Revenue Commission to investigate,” Marape said.
“I am very concerned that this report implicates our best-performing State Owned Enterprise. As I speak, [State Owned Enterprise] Minister Hon. William Duma, has started an internal review on this matter because we have a substantial infrastructure and operational improvement program going on in PNG Ports.”
“This report has serious implications on our PNG Ports Corporation, hence, I will direct a full investigation into the allegations by [the] Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC),” he said.