Former PNG PM O’Neill cleared of UBS loan allegations

Former PNG PM O’Neill

The Papua New Guinea National Court in Waigani on Friday closed criminal proceedings against Ialibu-Pangia MP and former prime minister Peter O’Neill regarding the K3billion (US$790 million) UBS loan saga for lack of evidence. 

Judge Teresa Berrigan said O’Neill was free to go after the Public Prosecutor’s Office filed a declaration declining to lay any charges against O’Neill as it considered that “the evidence was insufficient”. 

Judge Berrigan said in light of the declaration, the proceedings before the court were concluded. 

“O’Neill is free to go,” she said. 

“The criminal file is closed and bail will be refunded.” 

Outside the court on Friday, O’Neill said he was glad the proceedings had ended. 

 “This particular case has been one that is politically motivated,” he said. 

“I’ve known all along that there has been no evidence.” 

He said politics had become very dirty in the country and he was not surprised that this case had been politicised. 

O’Neill was arrested on 12 June last year and charged with allegedly giving false and misleading information under oath to the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the loan from the Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS). 

He was committed to stand trial late last year. 

In a statement O’Neill said: “I was arrested on 12 June 2023 on three counts of giving false evidence under oath during the UBS CoI, in what can only be described as a political witch-hunt to discredit and distract me. It did neither and has only strengthened my resolve to see positive change for our country. 

“The commissioner of police in June 2023 issued a formal statement that there was substantial evidence to support my arrest. 

“He also stated that my arrest will be just the first of many. No further arrests have been made and the evidence was insufficient. 

“Being publicly accused of lying under oath is not a minor matter but I have learned that reputation is something others form about you based on a mixture of facts and lies, but my integrity is something I give myself and my integrity has never wavered. 

“I hope this gives hope to others that the truth will always prevail. 

“I hope this causes those in positions of authority to uphold their oaths and act with strong character and properness and have sufficient evidence before arresting, charging and prosecution is undertaken.” 

He said it had become a hallmark of the Marape government to simply harass and publicly condemn people who speak up against them. 

“Democracy demands better,” he said. 

“Perhaps there are other cases where the evidence appears compelling that the commissioner of police can now turn his attention to. 

“I have taken full responsibility for my role as chairman of NEC and prime minister at the time of the UBS loan. 

“Marape was finance minister at the time and, if there was any impropriety, he should have said so at the time or provide evidence of it,” he said.