Prime Minister James Marape says the Royal Commission of Inquiry (COI) into the K3 billion Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS) loan is “not a waste of time and money”.
He said this in response to criticisms by the Opposition and others on the COI, which was established to look into the processes and procedures used by former Prime Minister Peter O’Neill in 2014, in obtaining the UBS loan and related transactions.
“This will not be another inquiry that collects dust, but will be processed to punish those involved and claim damages,” PM Marape said.
“I want to tell the nation that the COI is not a waste of time and money. I made a commitment to the nation, the moment I took office in May 2019, that fighting high-level corruption would be one of my Government’s main priorities.”
PM Marape said his Government was investing time and resources into the COI to establish the criminal culpability of all persons involved in the UBS loan.
“This is a ‘crime against our nation’ because over K3 billion of PNG LNG money was sucked into this bad deal engineered by former PM, Peter O’Neill, for the benefit of a few companies like UBS, Oil Search Ltd and PAC Energy – who picked up US$900 million belonging to the people of PNG,” he said.
“We are engaged in the UBS COI to claims damages and restitution from those companies, as well as criminally prosecute individuals who knowingly participated in this crime without due process.
“I call on those who are innocent in this saga to come forward and place your evidence.”
PM Marape said evidence already presented to the COI implicated O’Neill and former Oil Search Managing Director Peter Botten.
“From evidence already adduced, it is now clear that before Peter O’Neill brought the USB loan submission into Cabinet on March 6, 2014, Botten had already announced details of the submission a week earlier on February 27, 2014,” he said.
“This is an example of scheming behind the scenes, and how Cabinet and Government processes were hijacked to formalise the ‘robbery’ of over K3 billion of PNG LNG revenue.
“PNG must not be used by crony capitalistic greed that sees lawyers, bankers, CEOs, consultants and politicians make money.
“This exercise, hopefully will put a stop to such abuses from recurring in the future as well as punishing those who caused this theft of our people’s money. ”