Aussie arrested in PNG but still talks up country’s prospects

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David Brown, a well-regarded investment manager in the private markets space – both in Australia and internationally – and currently the CIO of the ‘number two’ Papua New Guinea industry fund, was arrested last week for “fraud”.

The charge was laid after his fund, the 4.6 billion kina ($A1.9 billion) “NASFUND” (National Superannuation Fund Ltd of PNG), issued a request for financial information from a long-time manager.

He had issued many such requests over many years as an investment professional for fiduciaries such as VFMC, he says, and as a strategist at QIC and an investment manager at Standard Life in Edinburgh. He is also a former chair of the Australian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association. His fund is standing behind him and expects the charges to be dismissed. Clear View, the Australian-listed insurer, also issued a statement of support.

While PNG, Australia’s nearest neighbour and our biggest beneficiary of aid, is a difficult place to work for various reasons, Brown remains positive about the country’s prospects and is a big supporter of those who are interested in investing there. Back home in Melbourne, over the weekend, he was sanguine about his recent incarceration.

“The police were very polite,” he says. “They were very courteous and professional. It wasn’t like in the movies… The worst part about it is the slow legal process.” Ironically, he was preparing to speak today (August 6) at an investment conference in Brisbane about the rosy prospects for investing in PNG. Peter O’Neill, the PNG Prime Minister, will also be speaking today at the same event.

Brown managed to get a court order late Thursday, so he could travel back to Australia, and was able to enjoy a couple of bonus days with his family in Melbourne, prior to getting up and selling the advantages of investing in PNG today.

“Our [PNG’s] yields are better than in Australia,” Brown enthusiastically said over the weekend. “There are lots of opportunities in retail and in infrastructure.”

Both Brown, and the chair of NASFUND, Hulala Tokome, believe the charges will be thrown out of court due to the doubtful grounds on which they were based. Prior to his current role, Brown was with Pac Wealth, which was the official “advisor” to NASFUND.

– G.B.

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