State joins UBS reference case

The state has been allowed by the Supreme Court to join as a party in the K3 billion Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS) loan reference that was referred to the high court early last year.

State was granted leave to join in court on Monday during directions hearing. Other parties in the case are Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, the Ombudsman Commission, former Chief Ombudsman Rigo Lua, Acting Chief Ombudsman Phoebe Sangetari and Attorney-General Ano Pala.

The matter is expected back in court on Sept 5 for further directions, before a date for the hearing can be set.

On Aug 1, the high court received facts surrounding constitutional questions in the K3 billion UBS loan reference.

Certain constitutional questions surrounding the alleged improper borrowing of the loan by the government was referred to the Supreme Court for determination by the National Court On Jan 28, 2015.

National Court allowed O’Neill to obtain a reference under section 18(2) of the constitution for interpretation at the Supreme Court, while the National Court proceeding was stayed, pending the outcome of the Supreme Court reference – a matter still before the high court.

This is all in relation to the alleged improper borrowing of K3 billion loan from the Union Bank of Switzerland AG by the government. This was to purchase 149,390,244 shares in Oil Search Limited and improper tender and procurement of consultants in relation to the borrowing.

The National Court last year also allowed Prime Minister O’Neill certain orders restraining the Ombudsman Commission from publishing a preliminary report of the alleged improper borrowing.

Meanwhile, the UBS loan case that was re-filed by Opposition Leader Don Polye in May is also still before the Supreme Court and will return to court on Sept 5 for further directions.

The case filed by Polye is challenging the legality of the government’s decision to acquire the K3 million from the Union Bank of Switzerland.

Sally Pokiton