Maseratis bought for PNG APEC 2018 meeting missing
Several of the Maseratis bought for last year’s summit of Asia-Pacific leaders have gone missing, Papua New Guinea admitted Tuesday, as it launched a probe to track them down.
The government of the impoverished nation faced harsh criticism for high spending – including buying a fleet of sportscars which sell for around US$150,000 each – for the November APEC summit, but promised to recoup some of the cost by selling them on.
Now, police have admitted, they don’t know where the cars are.
“A police unit has been established in the National Capital District to commence the recovery of all states assets including vehicles purchased for the APEC meetings,” police said in a statement.
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s officials said the luxury cars were needed to keep up the prestige of the event.
During the summit they could be seen parked for days on end at a warehouse by the docks.
Police said they had arrested a man who used APEC credentials to enter wharf and siphon fuel from the vehicles.
PNG police are seeking the return of nearly 300 imported cars loaned to officials for driving world leaders around its capital during last year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Corporation meeting, a commander said on Tuesday.
The purchase of the fleet, including 40 slick Maserati Quattroporte sedans, sparked public protest in a country beset by poverty, and potholes, and the government had promised to auction the cars after the November summit.
“There are 284 vehicles ... that were issued to personnel to use during APEC that haven’t been returned as yet,” said Superintendent Dennis Corcoran, who heads the State Asset Recovery Unit.
The vehicles include Landcruisers, Fords, Mazdas and Pajeros, he said, but not the luxury marques, which have been tracked down and recovered.
“All 40 of the Maseratis and the three Bentleys are in top condition and locked away in the old wharf shed down on the main wharf,” Corcoran said in a telephone call from Port Moresby.
He said police knew that nine cars were stolen, parts had gone missing and some of the returned cars were “pretty seriously damaged”.
The South Pacific archipelago of 7.3 million people pulled out all the stops at the APEC summit, hoping to put itself on the world map and lure investment. Aid money poured in from China and Australia to prepare for the event.
But it was the images of the Maseratis being unloaded at the airport, even as the government grappled with a polio outbreak, that proved a lightning rod for public anger.
Government spokesman Chris Hawkins said a global event had to be hosted properly, and added that many of the vehicles not yet returned were either in government lots or being used by paramedics, firefighters and other public servants.
Police believe six of the nine stolen cars are still around Port Moresby, while three have found their way to Mount Hagen, in the country’s rugged highlands. Corcoran was confident of finding them because he has a master list of who signed them out.
“Basically, I know where all 284 vehicles that I’ve got to collect are,” he said.