Swiss watchdog eyes 2014 UBS loan to Papua New Guinea

ZURICH, March 11 (Reuters) - Swiss financial watchdog FINMA is in touch with UBS about a 2014 loan to Papua New Guinea (PNG) that prompted a review of whether the PNG government had followed its own borrowing rules, the agency said on Monday.

“FINMA is aware of the financial transaction and we are in contact with the bank about this,” it said in a statement, declining to go into further detail about a transaction that has drawn critical comments in the Swiss media.

An independent commission froze the deal in March 2014 to investigate whether the PNG government broke its own rules in taking on an A$1.2 billion (now worth $847 million) loan from UBS to buy a key stake in oil and gas producer Oil Search.

PNG’s Ombudsman Commission was looking into whether Prime Minister Peter O’Neill followed correct legal procedures in deciding to borrow the money.

The loan came under fire from former Treasurer Don Polye after he was dumped by O’Neill earlier that same month. Polye has said the deal breached budget guidelines and was done without approval from parliament, but others familiar with the transaction said the government did nothing wrong.


Asked about the matter, the bank said: “UBS does not comment on specific client transactions. UBS adheres to strict standards in the due diligence and execution processes of our banking operations.”

$1 = 1.4174 Australian dollars Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Mark Potter