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article imagePapua New Guinea recovers 'APEC Maseratis', other cars still missing

By AFP     Feb 13, 2019 in World

Papua New Guinea has recovered 40 Maserati cars that vanished after being controversially purchased for a recent APEC summit in the impoverished nation, but other vehicles bought for the event remain missing.

Government documents show dozens of the sleek Maserati Quattroporte cars -- worth at least $135,000 each -- have resurfaced at a wharf in Port Moresby and will be sold off on February 18.

Three Bentley Flying Spur V8 vehicles worth at least $410,000 each will also be subject to tender.

Police have been called in to find an unknown number of the estimated 1,500 vehicles that were bought or donated for the November summit -- which saw leaders from across the region descend on Port Moresby.

The government justified the purchase of the sports cars -- which can only be used on the few sealed roads around the capital -- by saying it was in keeping with the prestige of the event.

The disappearance of the vehicles after the summit became a major political headache for Prime Minister Peter O'Neill, who is battling to prevent a vote of no confidence in parliament.

APEC 2018's CEO Christopher Hawkins has written to police to report that five vehicles in their possession have been recovered and four -- three Toyota Prados and one Hyundai van -- remain unaccounted for.

A further 20 vehicles were in use by the Joint Security Task Force that policed the event and have been "retired" and delivered to the finance department.

An unknown number of vehicles are still in use by government departments and agencies, the documents show.

There are growing concerns that the ultra-conspicuous Maseratis may only have resurfaced for long enough to be bought legally by well-connected firms at a discount price.

It was not immediately clear if a reserve had been placed on the vehicles.

Critics had argued the money used to purchase the cars could have been better spent dealing with chronic social problems in a developing nation where diseases such as polio and TB have recently re-emerged.

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