Papua New Guinea Probes Alleged Bribery Scheme Involving Former Port Executives

Published: 15 June 2023

motukea-port - SmallMotukea port, Papua New Guinea. (Photo: OCCRP)

By Vinicius Madureira

Police in Papua New Guinea have launched an investigation into allegations of corruption against former executives of the country’s ports company after a joint investigation by OCCRP and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

Authorities are looking into Fego Kiniafa and Stanley Alphonse, former senior officials of PNG Ports, along with Australian consultant Don Matheson, and International Container Terminal Services (ICTSI), a Philippines-based ports operator. Police are investigating whether they were involved in a bribery scheme to award ICTSI a contract for operating the country’s largest terminals.

“This is a complex transnational economic crime investigation,” said Papua New Guinea Police Commissioner David Manning in a statement, adding that police are probing “allegations of fraud and official corruption.”

Documents reviewed by OCCRP and ABC indicate a potential link between funds received from ICTSI by a Singapore company established by Matheson, and the provision of benefits to Kiniafa and Alphonse. The funds landed in the Singapore firm’s account around the same time ICTSI received lucrative contracts to run Papua New Guinea’s biggest ports.

Matheson’s Singapore company allegedly received approximately US$4.35 million in 2017 from ICTSI and then sent money to Alphonse, and paid for perks related to Kiniafa, such as purchasing a racehorse and medical equipment.

“This circumstance requires [p]olice to also independently review the entire public tendering process undertaken by PNG Ports Corporation to determine whether the contract awarded to ICTSI was done properly and fairly without any form of bias,” said Manning.

When questioned during the OCCRP investigation, Alphonse denied any wrongdoing, while Matheson, through his lawyers, chose not to respond to reporters' inquiries. Kiniafa was murdered in an unrelated case last September.

Journalists found information about the movement of funds in the Pandora Papers, a massive leak of millions of files from offshore company service providers granted to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and then shared with media partners, including OCCRP.