Former Papua New Guinea PM temporarily avoids arrest

Papua New Guinea's former prime minister Peter O'Neill (L), seen here in April 2019, has denied the charges

Papua New Guinea's ex-prime minister Peter O'Neill won a temporary reprieve in a corruption case Wednesday when a court agreed to a brief suspension of his arrest warrant.

Acting police commissioner David Manning announced Tuesday that a warrant for O'Neill relating to graft allegations had been issued by a district court, but he refused to give details due to the "sensitivity" of the investigation.

O'Neill has denied the charges, calling them politically motivated, and refused to cooperate with police -- claiming a lack of legal process, including not being officially presented with the warrant.

"If this were a serious matter, not a political power play, a formal process would be in place that would have seen legal representation made to my office," the former leader said in a statement on Tuesday.

Papua New Guinea's national court on Wednesday granted O'Neill a short suspension of the arrest warrant until Monday, when the court will hear further arguments.

O'Neill's long tenure was marked by a string of corruption allegations, including the purchase of 40 Maseratis for an Asia-Pacific leaders' summit he hosted -- in a country where few homes have reliable electricity.

He was forced to step down in May after allies baulked at his decision to sign a multibillion-dollar liquefied natural gas deal with France's Total and US firm ExxonMobil.

Local communities had complained bitterly about not benefiting from similar deals in the past.

After promising to resign and then trying to cling to power via the courts, he was ultimately replaced by his former finance minister James Marape, who vowed to clean up the government.