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Arrest warrant issued for Papua New Guinea ex-PM

Peter O'Neill was ousted earlier this year after eight years in power in Papua New Guinea

An arrest warrant has been issued for former Papua New Guinea prime minister Peter O'Neill on charges of corruption, authorities announced Tuesday.

The country's acting police commissioner David Manning said a district court had issued the warrant on Friday for the former leader, who was forced out of office in May after eight years in power.

Manning added that O'Neill had been found at Port Moresby's luxurious Crowne Plaza Hotel but had so far refused to go to the police station, and that he could not "reveal any specific details" about the charges "due to the sensitivity of the investigations".

In a statement, O'Neill described the charges as a "political move" with "false and fabricated" charges and claimed he was "not informed or presented with a warrant to appear anywhere today".

"If this was 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."

He warned any police officer trying to execute the warrant to "think carefully" before following the orders of his long-time critic, police minister Bryan Kramer.

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 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.