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The secrets behind O’Neill’s hidden fortune – The Midas Touch Part III

July 14, 2017 Leave a comment

PNGi has released Part 3 of The Midas Touch, an in-depth report into Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s business empire and how its development has been interwoven with his political career.

Lift Off: Prime Minister, Millionaire reveals O’Neill’s private business interests have included oil and gas industry support services, construction, airlines, insurance, finance and banking, consumer lending, information technology, funeral services, hospitality and gambling, travel and tourism, and consultancy services.

It also shows how, as Peter O’Neill’s political career reached its crowning peak in 2011, his business empire underwent an astonishing period of growth.

At its height, this empire commanded assets worth in excess of K250 million, although even this figure doesn’t account for any corporate holdings held on trust for O’Neill or held through other proxy shareholdings.

There is nothing necessarily sinister in a business empire, but in a national economy where the state is a major investor and consumer, having a Prime Minister personally possessing significant stakes in key markets, generates fertile ground for conflicts of interest.

Avoiding conflicts of interest is a demand enshrined in the Constitution, Section 27 states a leader must not ‘ place himself in a position in which he has or could have a conflict of interests’ and ‘shall not use his office for personal gain’ or ‘enter into any transaction or engage in any enterprise or activity that might give rise to doubt in the public mind’.

To test how Peter O’Neill matches up to these standards, PNGi has mapped his business empire, through a convoluted web of companies in which he has an explicit stake. In doing so, PNGi has uncovered evidence that O’Neill’s businesses have directly benefited from government contracts and contracts awarded or funded by international financial institutions and foreign governments.

Key findings include:

  • O’Neill’s business Wild Cat Developments, which he has recently sold, was one of the first to benefit from the construction of the controversial new Western Pacific University, in the Prime Minister’s Pangia-Ialibu electorate.
  • Wild Cat has also earned significant multi million kina revenues from Asian Development Bank funded projects.
  • O’Neill used the Prime Minister’s office to patronise a joint-venture he shares with Sir Luciano and Lady Ni Yumei Cragnolini, without seemingly revealing his beneficial interest.
  • Remington Technology, another company in which the Prime Minister has a substantial stake, has benefited from contracts with state entities, government departments, and Australian government agencies.

Lift Off: Prime Minister, Millionaire also reveals O’Neill owned entities have consistently breached important reporting requirements set out in the Company Act 1997.

These findings raise a series of important technical questions:

  • Has Peter O’Neill declared all his interests to the Ombudsman Commission and sought special dispensation for his voluminous range of business interests?
  • Did he recuse himself from any National Executive Council (NEC) decision, which his companies would benefit from, directly or indirectly?
  • Have the contracts complied with the governance protocols of the relevant International Financial Institutions and foreign government agencies?

The findings also raise some ethical issues:

  • Is it right for senior political figures to retain large business holdings?
  • Should a Prime Minister be able to personally profit from decisions made by his government, even where he has recused himself from the decision making process, and declared his assets to the Ombudsman Commission?

PNGi says The Midas Touch is based on months of digitally assisted analysis of several thousand corporate records, hundreds of official documents and media reporting. It comprises three parts:

  1. The Secret Millionaire: Inside the O’Neill Empire
  2. The Big Skim: Peter O’Neill Inc meets Don Sawong and Tos Barnett
  3. Lift Off: Prime Minister, Millionaire
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PNGi Portal a groundbreaking new resource for lawyers, journalists and academics

July 10, 2017 3 comments

In a country plagued by corruption, where politicians are seemingly more concerned with making personal profits that serving the nation, and where the law enforcement agencies are brutally under resourced, a new online database is poised to shake up the status quo and offer some hope to a beleaguered population.

Corruption thrives in Papua New Guinea because there is so little public access to information but now that is changing.

PNGi Portal is a groundbreaking online resource that provides access to both the details of company ownership and more than 20 years of anti-corruption investigations by government agencies.

Lawyers, journalists, academics and the public can now see who owns the companies that are being awarded dubious government contracts , they can track where politicians and public servants have been citied in official inquiries and they can link and cross reference the two sets of data.

Interested in a Paul Paraka? Just type the name and, with one click of a mouse, you can see that it appears in the company records of a long list of companies, including Klinki Rain Forest Limited, Kumu Builders, Kumu Construction, PB and Venna Ltd, PJ and Sons, PKP Consultancy Services, PKP Nominees, PPL Investments, PPM & Kids, PW & Kids, Siane No.s 1,2,3 and 4 and more…

But that is not all, you can also see the name Paul Paraka appears in twenty-two documents in the database of more than 500 reports, and with one click you can view not only the document but the very pages where the name appears!

All this is available to anyone via the internet and access is free.

Whether you are a lawyer or company executive interested in doing due diligence on a new client, potential business opportunity or an investment; a journalist writing a story in which an MP or a company features; a police officer investigating a potential crime; an academic or student researching a particular topic; or just a curious member of the public, the PNGi Portal provides access to a wealth of information that was previously inaccessible or completely hidden.

But the PNGi Portal does not stand alone, it has a sister website, PNGi Central, that demonstrates the functionality and power of the information available via the portal.

PNGi Central is a reporting hub that presents, in a range of different formats, the results of investigations by a network of journalists and academics. They are using the PNGi Portal to investigate not only corrupt deals but also the hidden and opaque systems of political and economic power that nurture and sustain them.

New governance watchdog PNGi exposes O’Neill’s business networks

June 22, 2017 1 comment

Masthead today from the PNGi Central website. Image: PMW

Source: Pacific Media Watch

PNGi is set to revolutionise governance in Papua New Guinea by cracking open the secrets of the rich and powerful and exposing them to public view.

Using the latest digital technologies, PNGi aims to investigate, analyse and expose the often hidden and opaque systems standing behind the abuse of political and economic power.

Its two flagship resources are the PNGi Portal and PNGi Central websites. They have been established and are sustained by an informal network of academics, activists and journalists involved in researching and writing about current issues in Papua New Guinea.

“In accordance with a robust risk assessment process, in some instances, contributors are protected by publishing their work anonymously,” said PNGi in a response to a query from Pacific Media Watch.

“However, all published material has been peer-reviewed, and is rigorously referenced, using freely accessible documentary sources. This allows anyone to verify each factual claim made.”

The PNGi Portal is an on-line database of governance reporting. It collates documents produced by institutions like the Ombudsman Commission, Auditor General and Public Accounts Committee and makes them available to the public through a powerful search engine.

The public can now search and cross-match reports, to uncover serial misconduct by target individuals or entities.

The database is a major addition to due diligence in Papua New Guinea. It will add value to the work of journalists, researchers, students, public officials, oversight agencies, citizens and responsible corporate actors.

Sitting alongside the portal is PNGi Central, a reporting platform that will use a range of formats to communicate the results of research into:

  • the discrete networks that lie at the heart of the country’s economic and political power, and which are mired in allegations of improper and illicit conduct;
  • the institutional and legal mechanisms the networks use;
  • common transaction patterns; and
  • the broader policy and legal factors that are permissive of improper or illegal activities.

PNGi Central represents the most sophisticated reporting effort yet in the region, to speak truth to power through rigorous research, accessible to the public through digestible mechanisms ranging from feature investigations, through to podcasts, power profiles and court reports.

O’Neill’s business network
To launch the new websites and illustrate PNGi’s research capabilities, PNGi Central has published a report into the business network of current Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.

Titled The Midas Touch, this investigative feature, to be published in three-parts, will reveal hundreds of millions of kina in assets owned by the Prime Minister, and a business empire that has its origins in alleged frauds condemned in two Commissions of Inquiry.

Part I, published today, unlocks for the first time the evidence of the Prime Minister himself, as published in Commission transcripts, and unravels a complicated series of corporate takeovers and hidden deals that have made Peter O’Neill a very wealthy man.

Parts II and II will follow over the coming weeks.

Once complete, The Midas Touch will expose how the Prime Minister’s corporate empire has benefited from government decision making, multi-lateral loans, and even foreign government spending.

PNGi contributions aim is to stimulate debate and encourage the development of new laws and policies that will be effective in the fight to control market abuse, corruption and other improper dealings, and, ultimately, to improve the lives of ordinary citizens.

The Papua New Guinea 2017 general election is June 24 until July 8.