Nearly 100 cars bought by Papua New Guinea for the APEC leaders’ summit have yet to be returned to the government, officials say.
The Pacific nation – one of the world’s poorest – bought about 1000 vehicles to transport world leaders during the annual meeting in November, intending to sell them off afterwards.
But as the government begins tendering the cars this month, police have been ordered to recover nearly 100 that are yet to make it back.
Finance Secretary Ken Ngangan this week said officials had been directed to surrender any APEC-related assets immediately.
“Any assets that still remain outside of this team after [Thursday] will be deemed illegal and stolen,” Mr Ngangan said.
PNG’s spending on the APEC conference – aided heavily by wealthier nations, including Australia – became a magnet for criticism of a government that has struggled to pay debt and public workers’ wages.
The purchase of 40 Maseratis and three Bentleys in particular sparked outrage and protests.
Those high-end cars, however, had all since been returned and would be sold as early as next week, Mr Ngangan said.
The nation of about eight million has suffered economically since a downturn in global commodity prices, the failure of an LNG project to deliver a promised economic boom and a magnitude 7.5 earthquake last year.
More than 100 disgruntled police and guards stormed the country’s parliament in November, demanding overdue payments for additional work during the APEC summit.