Papua New Guinea police are refusing to back down on their investigation into the nation’s prime minister, with cabinet’s pick for police commissioner arrested and the attorney-general being sought for questioning in Port Moresby.
Police have charged Geoffrey Vaki with trying to pervert the course of justice, just days after Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s cabinet appointed him acting police commissioner.
Mr Vaki was suddenly promoted after Mr O’Neill was served with a warrant for arrest earlier this week.
The nation’s anti-corruption watchdog, Task Force Sweep, on Monday said it had new evidence linking Mr O’Neill to an ongoing corruption saga in the Pacific Island nation.
Mr O’Neill has since avoided arrest, disbanded Sweep and sacked attorney-general Kerenga Kua as well as deputy police commissioner Simon Kauba.
Mr Kua’s replacement as attorney-general, Ano Pala, is now being sought for questioning by PNG police, sources familiar with the investigation have confirmed to AAP.
“We haven’t spoken to him yet,” said one source who declined to be named.
Mr Kauba is expected to give a press conference in Port Moresby on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Defence Force Commander Gilbert Toropo has told his troops to stay out of the unfolding political battle and says anyone who takes sides will be dismissed from the army.
“For us we have programs to run, trainings to carry out and we don’t have time for politics,” Commander Toropo told the news website PNG Loop News.
“Let the politicians play politics.”
Mr O’Neill has said the warrant served on him is politically motivated, and on Monday announced a commission of inquiry headed by Australian judge Warwick Andrews into the matter.
He has also denied authoring a letter approving about $30 million in illegal payments to law firm Paul Paraka lawyers.
New evidence uncovered by Task Force Sweep’s investigation into alleged corrupt dealings between the law firm and PNG’s department of finance is what sparked the warrant for Mr O’Neill’s arrest.
Sweep chairman Sam Koim revealed on Tuesday that Sydney-based private investigators believe a letter bearing Mr O’Neill’s signature authorising the payments is genuine.
“We have now received the forensic examination report from the Sydney-based Forensic Document Services Pty Ltd confirming that the signature on the letter … directing payments to Paraka Lawyers is PM O’Neill’s,” Mr Koim said.
The Paul Paraka affair – called Parakagate in Port Moresby – is one of PNG’s longest-running fraud investigations.
Mr Paraka, one of the most powerful lawyers in PNG, was arrested and charged in 2013 for allegedly receiving the state monies.
Task Force Sweep has alleged the payments were spread over a seven-year period and ran into the “hundreds of millions”.