Police in Papua New Guinea have charged six people – five men and a woman – in relation to the large sum of money that was found in a suitcase at an airport in Hela province.
It is still not clear at this point in time if the son of Prime Minister James Marape is among those who have been charged. Mospal Marape was arrested however the prime minister has made public statements that his son was part of the security detail and did not have anything do with the cash.
According to PNG police, the charges include money laundering, being in possession of state property and possession of an unlicensed firearm.
The six were arrested last weekend as they disembarked a chartered flight in Hela. Police had been tipped off that a large sum of money was being transported.
Upon searching the passengers, one of the men was found clutching a suitcase which contained K1.56 million (AU$440,000). Police also discovered uniforms belonging to security forces and the woman was found to have been carrying a firearm.
PNG police commissioner David Manning has issued a stern warning telling people that they should not spread fake news or speculate the matter as this is a sensitive issue.
He said the police were doing their investigation and they will find out what the money was for.
Mr Manning said irresponsible comments or unsubstantiated rumours on social media can cause fear and possibly public disorder, while derailing police investigations.
Earlier this week, Mr Marape had said that even his family members were not above the law but maintained that his son had nothing to do with the cash and gun.
He said police were doing their work. Mr Marape said his son left on Saturday to take some journalists for a sight-seeing tour of Komo and the LNG site.
“When my son was detained, I didn’t use my position to (have him released) because no one is above the law, including my family,” Mr Marape told media in PNG.
Marape said his son just happened to be in the vicinity and was not there to pick up the money.
Bagful of cash – Son of PNG PM arrested – 5 July 2022
Worrying signs are already appearing in Papua New Guinea’s general elections as police arrested a man at an airport in Hela trying to take K1.065 million (AU$440,000) in a suitcase.
This incident comes after an advisory from the PNG Police on selling votes.
The money was found in a suitcase which a man was clinging to as police lined up the passengers on a chartered plane after receiving a tip-off on Sunday. The plane flew from Port Moresby and landed in the Hela province.
Among those arrested is the son of PNG’s Prime Minister James Marape, who had been detained for two nights.
Mr Marape told media in PNG that his son was arrested because it was police procedure. He stated that neither did he need the money nor had he chartered the flight.
He said the rule of law will take its course and as such his son was detained and as the normal process dictated he had applied for bail.
Mr Marape has further told media that to his knowledge the money was not illegal. He said it belonged to a company which had to make payments in cash.
According to reports coming out of PNG, the man arrested with the cash had initially said the money was for elections purposes and later changed his statement to say it belonged to a company.
Police have not laid charges on anyone yet as they are investigating what the money was for.
PNG police commissioner David Manning said this is a serious concern and police will be very thorough in their investigation.
He has also urged politicians and their supporters to engage in free and fair elections for the betterment of the nation.
“As we go to the polls I wish to again appeal to candidates, their supporters and the general public to take responsibility and make this a free, fair, safe and corruption free election,” he said.
“I appeal also to all members of the Joint Security Task Force engaged in providing security for the election and members of the PNG Electoral Commission to be honest, diligent and committed in the discharge of their duties.”
Just days before voting started, PNG police had arranged several awareness rallies asking people to follow the rule of law and not to sell their votes.
The 2017 observer reports have stated that elections in PNG have been influenced by money, favours and fear.
While vote buying is a concern, a bigger concern is the electoral rolls. Many people are also being turned away from polling venues as their names are not appearing on the electoral rolls.
Experts had warned that the electoral rolls had not been updated.