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Renzie Duncan and Philip Miriori team up in another illegal Bougainville venture 

June 29, 2017 2 comments

Sydney lawyer and mining venture capitalist, Renzie Duncan, is on the prowl again for Bougainville’s mineral wealth, with his old friend Philip Miriori,  the scandal-plagued, self-appointed head of the Me’ekamui Tribal Government.

This time its through Central Me’ekamui Exploration Limited, which is in partnership with Australian mining firm RTG Mining.

Company extracts indicate that Central Me’ekamui Exploration Limited, despite its very local name, is in fact a foreign enterprise.

This assertion is based on the fact it is 50% owned by Australian company, Central Exploration Pty Ltd.

Central Exploration Pty Ltd’s thriving head office is 266 Burns Bay Road, Lane Cove, New South Wales, Australia. This leafy address on Sydney’s north shore, is also the registered home address for Renzie Duncan.

Under the Investment Promotion Act 1992, a company which is 50% owned by a foreign entity is deemed a foreign enterprise and must apply for certification to conduct business in Papua New Guinea.

Section 41 of the Investment Promotion Act 1992 states it is an offence to carry on business without certification, punishable by a K100,000 fine.

There is no record with the Investment Promotion Authority that Central Me’ekamui Exploration Limited has applied for certification, despite the fact it has been clearly conducting business with RTG Mining.

However, this is not the first time Duncan, Miriori and the other Central Exploration Director, Michael Etheridge, have conducted business in Bougainville. 

The last time it was through Transpacific Ventures Limited.

In that case Transpacific Ventures informed investors:

‘In the past 12 months, TPV has negotiated and signed an Agreement (the “Cairns Agreement”) with the Sovereign Me’ekamui Tribal Government on an exclusive basis for 20 years, renewable, to advise customary landowners (the Me’ekamui) in developing their natural resources sector, including potential oil and gas, on the island of Bougainville, PNG and surrounding atolls and marine territories, and to participate with the Me’ekamui in such development and other business opportunities’.

Yes, that’s right, Philip Mioriri and his self-styled tribal government proposed to sign away the natural resources, landed and marine, across Bougainville. Clearly, he had no right to, and Transpacific Ventures had no legal business publishing this information to investors.

Of course the claim by President Momis that RTG mining ‘doesn’t have any money’, is rather ironic given that his preferred operator, BCL, cant even afford permanent staff – and has no means whatsoever to raise the sort of capital to develop Panguna.

But the core point all this squabbling between various minority interests distracts from is this – 98% of the people in and around Panguna oppose mining, under any industrial guise. They have suffered the environment and human loss.

The ordinary people – real landowners – don’t have government support, nor do they have access to the internet or media. Their voice is unheard, except when they protest and resist.

The re-entry of Duncan and Mirori, will be cynically used by the government to label all landowner resistance, simply a plot to bring in an alternative developer by the backdoor. If this is argued, it is a lie.

Landowners throughout the mine area remain opposed, like they have since 1963, when the first rumblings of Panguna began. Journalists will not report this. They don’t leave their offices, much less speak with someone who cant reply in english.

On the rare occasions they do leave their office, they knock on the door of Lawrence Daveona, Philip Mioriori and other individuals, who falsely claiming they somehow speak for all landowners, which they don’t. Of course the colonial powers did this back in the 1960s. Some poor old man, was wielded out to say yes, while the mothers cried no.

History has been a cruel teacher, it is unlikely the mothers of the land will allow the bulldozers through this time.

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Is PNG taking over Bougainville via the backdoor?

March 7, 2017 Leave a comment

 

Over the past month, there has been a sudden spike in reporting on Bougainville Copper Limited and the Panguna mine. The reports vary notably. Some suggest an opening date of 2020. Others suggest something closer to 2025.

Curiously no journalist has asked, who is the man being described variously as BCL’s new CEO or CFO, Mr Mark Wallace Hitchcock?

Given that he appears to be a key source for these various bold claims over BCL’s ambitious objectives, it would seem a question worth asking.

BCL’s website is notably sparse. In contrast to most corporate websites, there is no detailed biography available on its head. Does he have mining experience? What are the blue-chip mining concerns he previously managed? Its impossible to know.

Yet given Hitchock is claiming his company will lead Bougainville to the promised land of milk and honey, one would expect details.

We do know, however, through some detective work that Hitchcock is in a close commercial relationship with a tycoon who is close ally of Peter O’Neill.

Company records reveal that Mr Mark Hitchcock is Director of Vane Mata Quarry Limited, a company majority owned by none other than the Australian magnate, ‘Sir’ Theophilus George Constantinou [through his company Monier Limited]. Constantinou is a man who is deeply involved in business relations with Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill.

It must be asked, is this a push by the Port Moresby club to take over Panguna?

Another fact that appears to have been overlooked by media commentators is BCL’s share registry. Despite the considerable passage of time since Rio Tinto ‘gave’ its shares to the PNG and Bougainville governments, there is no record of this on the IPA database – a list of the registered shareholders is included below.

For Bougainvilleans concerned over their sovereignty and independence, this should not come as a surprise. The ABG big men talk the talk about independence and speaking with one voice, in reality many in Cabinet are criminals stealing meagre resources – this is no secret, its on the public record in the national court.

These men trade on peoples’ love for their country and government. They know this goodwill gives them virtual impunity. And with no free press on Bougainville, where would alternative sources of information come from. Who can access blogs like this from the village?

But the ABG are asleep at the wheel. Some may talk nationalism, but their main devotion is to money – a sickness Francis Ona reported on way back in 1988. If that means getting into bed with Port Moresby, at the cost of compatriots, they will do it, if the price is right. They only see the gold, not the blood.

When the referendum returns a yes vote, it will become apparent that the ABG is poorly administered and incapable of managing independence without in effect surrendering its sovereignty to a donor such as Australia, or China, who could fleet in consultants to prop up an ailing structure (whether they will is another question). The Big Men will blame the people of Panguna for resisting the mine. They will not take responsibility for the criminal thefts, and corrupt transactions, that are now well documented within the ABG. They will blame the people. 

Many years ago Francis Ona called out fake nationalists in love with money, one of whom is currently President.

In that spirit we should all be asking, if the ABG is placing the entire country’s chips on BCL reopening Panguna. Who is leading this keystone company? And who is this individual tied to?

BCL Share Registry

Bundle 1

Number of shares 642157

CITICORP NOMINEES PTY LTD

Bundle 2

Number of shares 4931743

JP MORGAN CUSTODIAL NOMINEES LIMITED

Bundle 3

Number of shares 1620157

Thomas John BERESFORD

Bundle 4

Number of shares 57977361

Company Share Register COMPANY SHARE REGISTER 

Bundle 5

Number of shares 214887996

RIO TINTO LIMITED

Bundle 6

Number of shares 76430809

THE INDEPENDENT STATE OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA

Bundle 7

Number of shares 6027187

WESTPAC CUSTODIAN NOMINEES LIMITED

Bundle 8

Number of shares 1657958

NATIONAL NOMINEES LIMITED

Bundle 9

Number of shares 3600000

1-3263 BOUGAINVILLE COPPER FOUNDATION LIMITED

Bundle 10

Number of shares 2561500

PUBLIC OFFICERS SUPERANNUATION FUND BOARD

Bundle 11

Number of shares 30725632

ANZ NOMINEES LIMITED

Is there something fishy about Bougainville’s new Vice President? 

February 27, 2017 2 comments

The Autonomous Bougainville Government, under the leadership of President John Momis, is not shy about appointing criminals to Cabinet positions. Take the example of Fidelis Semoso, Minister for Economic Development, the National Court found he was part of a criminal conspiracy to defraud the state of K2.7 million, which came at the cost of Buka General Hospital.

Now we have been informed that President Momis has appointed a new Vice President, Raymond Masono, following the resignation of Patrick Nisira (another man not unknown to this blog!).

While Masono is better known as the former Minister for Public Services  and Director of the Office of Panguna Negotiations, his business activities have not been in the public eye.

We can reveal that Masono jointly owns a company Bougainville Seaweed Limited, which has been in receipt of multiple large payments from the Autonomous Bougainville Government, at a time when Masono was a senior civil servant.

Company records show that Masono owns 1/3 of Bougainville Seaweed Limited, the remaining 2/3 of the company is split evenly between Albert Kinani and Kenneth Kumul, both publc servants.

Drawing from leaked financial data detailing Autonomous Bougainville Government expenditure in 2014, it can be confirmed that Bougainville Seaweed Limited was paid in total K290,000 by the Bougainville government during August of that year.

The first payment occurred on 12/8/2014. In total K190,000 was paid to Bougainville Seaweed Limited for ‘Atolls Area Farming Of Seaweed’.

Several weeks later, on 25/8/2014, a second payment of K100,000 was made for ‘Feasibility Study On Seaweed Farming’.

When these payments were made Raymond Masono was Director of the Office of Panguna Negotiation, Kinani was Secretary for Commerce, and Kumul was Atolls District Sea Weed Farming Coordinator.

Given that the ABG has its own holding companies set up to run state enterprises, there appears to be no legitimate reason why this company would be owned by three public officials (especially by one whose job title has nothing to do with seaweed farming). This also has to be set against a backdrop of criminality and corruption within the Autonomous Bougainville Government, which has been well documented on this blog.

On top of this revelation it is likely that Masono, in his capacity as Bougainville Seaweed Limited’s Director, has been submitting incorrect information to the Investment Promotion Authority. For example in Bougainville Seaweed’s 2014 Annual Return, Masono claims that the company had net assets of a mere K3, and 1 full time employee, despite being paid K290,000 by the ABG alone in August. It also appears that the company was also in receipt of EU money during 2014. If Masono knowingly submitted false information, this is a criminal offence under section 420 of the Company Act 1997.

This activity must also be read against the Leadership Code set out in Constitution of Bougainville which states ‘a person to whom this Part applies has a duty to conduct himself in such a way, in his public or official life and in his private life and in associations with other persons, as to comply with the long-established standards of customary leadership in Bougainville, including trustworthiness, transparency, and acting in the interests of, and as custodian of wealth for the People, and not for personal gain’. 

It continues: ‘A person to whom this Part applies has a duty to conduct himself in such a way, both in his public or official life and in his private life and in associations with other persons, as not to –

  1. place himself in a position in which he has or could have a conflict of interests or might be compromised when discharging his public or official duties;  or
  2. demean his office or position;  or
  3. allow his public or official integrity, or his personal integrity, to be called into question;  or
  4. endanger or diminish respect for and confidence in the integrity of government in Bougainville’.

It remains to be seen whether Vice President Masono has met this standard with respect to Bougainville Seaweed Limited.

These are the victims of corruption in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville

January 30, 2017 Leave a comment

landslide

We have previously drawn attention to grand levels of corruption within the Autonomous Bougainville Government, which has decimated capacity and public funds. We are saddened to hear a major landslide in the south of Bougainville has taken many lives, following a huge earthquake (it appears no media accounts have yet appeared of the fatalities!). An eyewitness report suggests for seven days families have been digging for loved ones, without any state assistance. Meanwhile millions in Kina is stolen by government Ministers, or awarded to companies owned by business partners and family members. Those digging through mud, struggling to find their loved ones, are the victims of corruption, and the mismanagement it breeds. An eyewitness account paints a sombre portrait.  

Source: Cecilia Pepson‎, Bougainville Women’s Federation

Five days have gone by, and they have not found their loved ones. Day in and day out, they continue to dig through the rubble. They have changed the course of the Porou river three times, getting the fast flowing river to wash away dirt so they can hope to find them. 

By day five (5), they can smell the decomposing bodies, but still evasive. They dig around the huge rock that got dislocated from the left side of this canyon like gorge. The rock that their loved ones must be entombed beneath. 

They are cold, they are hungry, their hands are sore from digging with them bare (no gloves). Their backs ache, they catch cough because their immunity is down as they dig tirelessly through rain or shine, night or day. They dare not stop, cos they can smell them close by somewhere near. The sooner they find them the better. So they can put them to rest and then and only then, will they rest. 

They are a forgotten people. Government services do not trickle down this far. Yesterday there was a feeble attempt from Buin District office to assist… 6 bags of 20kg rice. Sadly, this is just a drop in the bucket.

It will help if someone from the “natural disaster office” in Buka can make a site visit and see for themselves that the searchers need to eat as they work around the clock. Everyone from surrounding villages are running out of resources, because they are all relatives and are ALL in mourning and further, live in the same treacherous landscape. These are people who live such hard lives, while their elected leaders forget them for 5 years after getting elected into office. 

These people do not have access to water in their homes. Their children went to have their daily wash and to fetch water for consumption in their homes. This is how life is lived in this part of the world. Children going to wash together, 2 kilometers down in the gorge, adds fun to the hard task of children helping parents carry home much needed basic water. Unfortunately on this particular Sunday, disaster struck.

Bougainville Women’s Federation issues a response:

‘The Disaster office in Buka has been handicap for so long, and I call on the ABG and our National Parliamentarians to prioritise emergencies like what we have now in Leonoke as we will continue to go through experiencing a lot more disasters in Bougainville’.

Who is illegally dredging for gold on Bougainville?

December 1, 2016 6 comments
jaba-gold-dredging

Illegal gold dredging on the Jaba river might not be Chinese owned, as claimed in the media

Recent media reports say a Chinese company, Jaba Joint Development, is illegally dredging for gold on the Jaba river in Bougainville.

It is claimed Jaba Joint Development was allowed into the Panguna area by the Autonomous Bougainville Government and its suspect Commerce Minister, Fidelis Semoso, originally to make bricks, but has now set up a substantial gold dredging operation.

Bougainville News has quoted local landowners as saying Jaba Joint Development is 95% Chinese owned with a small minority interest held by ‘certain landowners’ and the ABG.

Official company records, however, show a rather different ownership picture involving New Zealander Liqun Pan, Bougainville local, Chris Dendai and links to Hong Kong, Australia and the British Virgin Islands as well as property in both Cairns and Auckland.

liqun-pan-relationships

Jaba Joint Development Limited was registered with the Investment Promotion Authority in Port Moresby, in November 2014.

According to IPA records, the company is owned by two individuals, Chris Dendai and Liqun Pan, a New Zealand citizen. They are also the company directors. Dendai and Pan each holds 50% of the shares in Jaba Joint Development.

Interestingly, although the IPA shows Dendai and Pan as the shareholders of Jaba Joint Development, in the original application to register the company two different shareholders were proposed: Tumpusiong Resources Limited and a Hong Kong registered, Chinese company, Timesview Resources Development Limited.

Tumpusiong Resource Limited is a PNG registered company with 14 men listed as shareholders, including Chris Dendai, all from Darenai village in the Panguna region of Bougainville. According to its filed annual returns, Tumpusiong is a company that is involved in brick making.

Timesview Resources was registered in Hong Kong on 26 November 2014, the same date as the application to register Jaba Joint Development in PNG was made. Timesview Resources was deregistered in Hong Kong in August 2016.

Timesview Resources was majority owned by Timesview International Group, which has Liqun Pan listed as a minority shareholder. The largest shareholder in TIG is Chuen Hing Petroleum & Chemicals Holdings Limited – a company registered in the British Virgin Islands.

Documents filed with the IPA in Port Moresby do not show how or when the ownership of Jaba Joint Development was switched from Tumpusiong Resources and Timesview Resources Development to Chris Dendai and Liqun Pan, which prompts the question whether the people of Darenai village are aware of the switch?

Liqun Pan, who remember holds half the shares in Jaba Joint Development, has a registered address at 4 Bramley Drive, Farm Cove in the south Auckland suburb of Manakau and is also the owner of two New Zealand registered companies; Niae Trustee, with Li Hui, and Cypco Biotechnology.

The address Liqun Pan uses for his NZ registered companies

No.4 Bramley Drive, he address in Auckland Liqun Pan uses for his NZ registered companies

Liqun Pan and Li Hui also own the Australian registered company Niae Pty Limited and together own a home in Cairns, North Queensland. No. 4 Finchley Close in the suburb of Redlynch was purchased by Pan and Hui in May 2013 for $570,000.

The home Liqun Pan and Hiu own in Cairns

No.4 Finchley Close, the home Liqun Pan and Li Hui own in Cairns

Liqun Pan and Li Hui are also connected through their joint ownership of Inae Limited, a company registered in the British Virgin Islands. That connection is revealed in the ‘Panama Papers’ leaked from the now infamous law firm Mossack Fonseca…

inae-limited

Can anyone explain how Liqan Pan and Chris Dendai ended up running an allegedly illegal gold dredging operation on the Jaba river?

President John Momis implicated in Chinese-Australian plot to lift Bougainville mining moratorium

May 12, 2016 5 comments
The scares of the Panguna mine

The scars of the Panguna mine

It was 1989, blood was spilling on the streets of Bougainville after landowners closed Rio Tinto’s controversial Panguna mine. Yet while mobile squad officers and the BRA traded fatal blows, a number of political heavy weights were trying to lift Bougainville’s moratorium that forbade any further mining activities.

According to internal records published for the first time here (see below), senior government figures wanted exploration licenses over the island to be exclusively issued to Bougainville Resources Pty. Limited (formerly Patana Company No. 86 Pty. Limited), a corporate entity which they had a 49% stake in through their shares in the holding company Patana Company No. 89 Pty Limited (see below).  

It can be revealed that President John Momis was one of the individuals with shares in this company. He was also directly implicated in this effort to open up Bougainville to mining exploration, at a time when Panguna was provoking a war that would end up taking 20,000 lives.

Just two years prior John Momis had written to Bougainville Copper Limited, denouncing the devastation that mining had caused to his island. Then he described the company as a “cancer”.

Two years later Momis’ colleague the North Solomons Premier wrote to Papua New Guinea’s Mining Minister, to ask that the mining moratorium be lifted, and exclusive prospecting license be issued to a company Bougainville Resources Pty. Limited.

This company was co-owned by a Chinese-Australian consortium, Bougainville Gold Enterprises Pty Limited (50.1%), and a second concern, Patana Company No. 89 Pty. Limited (49.9%). Bougainville’s current President held 33% of the shares in Patana Company No. 89 Pty. Limited.

In a second letter to the Mining Minister the North Solomons Premier insisted that the lifting of the moratorium and the award of a prospecting authority to Bougainville Resources Pty Limited, would help to stop the Bougainville crisis in its tracks. He also implies that a failure to comply with this request, may lead to a loss of provincial support for the upcoming Bougainville Copper Agreement renegotiation, which was seen as critical to the national government’s Bougainville peace package.

As part of this high risk strategy being pursued by those behind Bougainville Resources Pty Limited, the Mining Minister is asked to steamroll over existing regulations through an amendment to the Mining Regulations – this would ensure there was no time for objections to be lodged by potential “opponents” to this mining exploration monopoly over Bougainville.

 “It is a matter of urgent priority that the Prospecting Authorities sought by our company (Bougainville Resources Pty Ltd) be awarded immediately. Applications for Prospecting Authorities through the current regulatory framework would take time which in this instance is a luxury we cannot afford ourselves. The long period of time involved under current application procedures would also permit opponents to orchestrate a deliberate campaign of misinformation which could jeopardise our aspirations and our venture”.

The letter continues: 

“I suggest that the solution can be found through a change in the Mining Regulations (Chapter 195) whereby so far as the applications for Prospecting Authorities related to the North Solomons Province, the time period as prescribed under the above regulations for objections (Section 69), time for hear(ing) (Section 70), and such other procedural impediments to an immediate consideration and granting of our Prospecting Authority application – be minimised as far as possible”.

While these letters to the Mining Minister were never made public, the press did uncover links between Momis and the Chinese-Australian consortium who would be the primary beneficiary of this secretive deal.

The Australian Financial Review revealed in 1990:

 “A detailed plan is in place for a joint venture between Bougainville’s Provincial Government and Australian business interests to acquire the prospecting rights for virtually the whole of the island, once security is restored. Although Bougainville MP and the national Minister for Provincial Affairs, Father John Momis, conceived the venture, its true architect is Sydney-based notary, Mr Benedict Chan. Associated with Mr Chan in the Bougainville Resources joint venture is Sydney media consultant Mr Martin Dougherty, through the PNG-listed company Patana No 82 Pty Ltd [renamed Bougainville Gold Enterprises Pty Ltd]”.

At the time it appears reporters were not aware that Joseph Kabui, John Momis and James Togel each held shares in the company partnering with the Chan led consortium. Therefore, no questions were asked about the nature of this involvement.

Nevertheless, when Benedict Chan was confronted with general allegations of corruption, he claimed “Why would I need to ‘grease’ people? It is a commercial venture”. The Australian Finance Review also noted: 

“Mr Chan denied he was a financial backer of Father Momis’ Melanesian Alliance Party … But, Mr Chan said, he was a ‘personal supporter’ of the Melanesian Alliance and was also a trustee of the Melanesian Awareness Campaign, another organisation of which Father Momis was a trustee”.

This  historical revelation comes as John Momis in his capacity as ABG President has overseen discussions that could potentially lead to a lifting of the mining moratorium on Bougainville. This began with the passing of the Bougainville Mining Act 2015 – drafted by controversial British company Adam Smith International – and it continues as parliament debates the moratorium question at this very moment.

There are public concerns that any lifting of the moratorium will be used by today’s political heavyweights on Bougainville to benefit a small national minority and their foreign business partners. Already misgivings have been expressed over the considerable payments made to businessmen such as Henry Chow by the Momis government.

These new revelations over Bougainville Resources Pty Limited, also raise important legacy issues. For example, why were certain political leaders trying to lifting the moratorium at a time when the mining question on Bougainville was throwing the nation into civil war? Could the war have been averted, if more time had been spent dealing with Panguna landowner grievances, rather than engineering a scheme to open up Bougainville to the Chinese-Australian exploration company?

NSPG to PNGG

NSPG to PNGG 1

NSPG to PNGG 2

NSPG to PNGG 3

Entity_Extract-BOUGAINVILLE_RESOURCES_PTY._LIMITED-1-130781

Entity_Extract-BOUGAINVILLE_RESOURCES_PTY._LIMITED-1-130782

Entity_Extract-BOUGAINVILLE_RESOURCES_PTY._LIMITED-1-130783

Entity_Extract-PATANA_COMPANY_NO.89_PTY_LIMITED-1-132621

Entity_Extract-PATANA_COMPANY_NO.89_PTY_LIMITED-1-132622

Entity_Extract-PATANA_COMPANY_NO.89_PTY_LIMITED-1-132623

Entity_Extract-BOUGAINVILLE_GOLD_ENTERPRISES_PTY_LIMITED-1-132551

Entity_Extract-BOUGAINVILLE_GOLD_ENTERPRISES_PTY_LIMITED-1-132552

Entity_Extract-BOUGAINVILLE_GOLD_ENTERPRISES_PTY_LIMITED-1-132553

Entity_Extract-BOUGAINVILLE_GOLD_ENTERPRISES_PTY_LIMITED-1-132554

Is UK firm Adam Smith International profiting at the expense of PNG?

April 11, 2016 1 comment
Who is ASI working for when it writes laws and policies in PNG - the people of PNG or its foreign paymasters? And how much do it's staff and owners benefit personally?

Who is ASI working for when it writes laws and policies in PNG – the people of PNG or its foreign paymasters? And how much do it’s staff and owners benefit personally?

A new report [pdf file] published by Aid Watch (UK) and Global Justice Now lifts the lid on the British based aid- entrepreneur, Adam Smith International (ASI).

ASI is no stranger to Papua New Guinea. With funding from the World Bank and the Australian government’s aid programme it has drafted controversial new mining laws [pdf file] in Bougainville, that deny landowners fundamental human rights. It is also strongly involved in advising the O’Neill government on extractive sector policy, in addition to transport, infrastructure and public administration.

Following an investigation into foreign aid contracts won by ASI in the UK, the Aid Watch report claims ASI’s work is cloaked in financial secrecy, big corporate profits and fat pay cheques for its executives.

The report observes, ‘despite the government’s repeated transparency pledges, it remains difficult to get a full picture and a detailed breakdown of how funds are actually spent’. As a result, ‘it is unclear how much of a certain contract will be consumed by transport and accommodation for ASI consultants, for example, or how much the company will pocket in fees and administration costs’.

However, it is noted, ‘a look at the company’s financial statements … show just how lucrative the “aid industry” has been for it. In 2014 ASI reported revenues exceeding £110m – up more than 20% from £90m in 2013, and 50% from 2012 (£72m)’.

The report continues:

“The rewards of ASI’s aid-funded business have been particularly rich for the company’s directors. ASI is owned by a holding company called the Amphion Group, which is in turn owned by Adam Smith Advisory Group. In 2014, the Adam Smith Advisory Group said its seven paid directors shared just over £1m in salaries and benefits, with the highest-paid receiving almost £250,000 which is far more than what DfID’s top official, or even the UK prime minister, takes home”.

The report also inquires into ASI’s past. It claims ASI’s origins lie in the similarly named Adam Smith Institute, a right-wing think tank that is known for supporting tax cuts for the most wealthy and the privatization of public assets. Both organisations, it is argued, have a strong overlap of personnel and objectives. They are also closely connected to the UK’s ruling Conservative Party, which has been slashing budgets while opening up new opportunities for the most wealthy to park their money in British overseas tax havens.

Perhaps not surprisingly given its status as one of the world’s leading aid entrepreneurs, ASI has strongly lobbied for more aid to be delivered through private companies rather than government agencies or the not-for-profit sector. ASI has also argued that particularly in countries facing instability, private contractors such as itself can help the UK government exert its influence over local policies through the exercise of ‘soft’ power.

Indeed, the report notes in 2011 ASI ‘told a House of Lords committee that using private contractors for projects in conflict environments better “allows the projection of soft power” by increasing the UK’s ability to influence policy in these countries’.

“Technical assistance is very much complementary to ‘harder’ exercises of UK power such as military force”’.

This prompts a range of questions for PNG and Bougainville.

Has ASI been funded by the World Bank and Australian government to ‘influence’ PNG and Bougainville policy, in ways that benefit foreign powers and companies, rather than the citizens of PNG and Bougainville?

And just how much money does ASI pay its consultants and contractors who come into our country to exercise ‘soft power’ on behalf of their paymasters, whether it be Australia or the World Bank?