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Task Force Says Papua New Guinea Riddled with Corruption

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill
Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill
SYDNEY - A task force set up to investigate corruption in Papua New Guinea says unscrupulous 'mobsters,' including members of parliament, are undermining the South Pacific country's development. Investigators arrested 35 people including several current and former members of parliament and other public servants.

The anti-graft unit was established by Prime Minister Peter O'Neill to investigate allegations of corruption in key government departments, such as the Department of Health and the influential Department of National Planning and Monitoring.

Former Prime Minister Michael Somare accused the task force of carrying out a "witch hunt." However, Sam Koim, chairman of the anti-graft unit known as Task Force Sweep, said corrupt officials had turned the South Pacific country's constitutional democracy into a "Mobocracy."

"Generally [in] our investigations we have discovered a frightening trend of corruption in this country," said Koim. "And the level of corruption had migrated from a sporadic to a systematic, and now an institutionalized form of corruption."

Investigators have seized millions of dollars from various suspects. A former planning minister in Papua New Guinea is to stand trial on corruption charges.

Corruption is expected to be a key issue in the upcoming general election.

A spokesman for Prime Minister O'Neill said the cabinet would consider the fraud report. Meanwhile, Task Force Sweep will continue its work.