The Papua New Guinea government was in damage control today as the Post-Courier newspaper revealed details of a $US40 million stash of kickbacks from log exports sitting in two Singapore bank accounts of a Somare government minister. The money is said to represent a skimming of 2.1 percent from every log exported since 2002. Records show the MP had accessed the account twice since then - with the huge balance steadily accumulating compound interest.
Government advisers told the Post-Courier that this money, deposited each time logging companies exported logs, had not been used because “it is too large, it will raise concerns if brought into the country in a large amount”. Documents obtained by the newspaper show that the money belongs to a single Minister, but percentages are shared among three others.
In Port Moresby today, government sources were dealing with the revelation by castigating the Post-Courier while Opposition leader, Sir Mekere Morauta, said this was hard evidence of “systemic corruption” in PNG.