Papua New Guinea gov't says it won't pay for 40 luxury cars

CANBERRA, Australia — The Papua New Guinea government has taken delivery of a fleet of 40 luxury Maserati cars to drive world leaders around during a summit next month, but has also assured the poor South Pacific island nation's taxpayers that they won't pay for the extravagance.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Chinese President Xi Jinping are among the dignitaries expected to attend the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in the capital, Port Moresby, on Nov. 17 and 18.

The Papua New Guinea government chartered two Boeing 747 cargo planes to fly the 40 Maserati Quattroporte sedans from the Italian factory in Milan to the nation of 8.5 million people, mostly subsistence farmers, AirBridgeCargo Airlines said in a statement.

Papua New Guinea APEC Minister Justin Tkatchenko said the cars, with a recommended retail price in the Unites States of $107,400, "are being committed to be paid for by the private sector."

Tkatchenko's office did not immediately respond Thursday to a request for details of the deal.

"Having vehicles paid for by the private sector is the smartest way to have use of the vehicles at APEC at no overall cost to the state," Tkatchenko said in a statement Wednesday.

"The sedans will provide the level of carriage for leaders that is the standard for vehicles used at APEC summits," he added.

Ports Moresby's Post Courier newspaper on Thursday quoted Tkatchenko as saying Papua New Guinea had resold cars after international summits before.

"For those who continue to spread lies and bring hype to the issue of the vehicles being brought into the country, the national government did not pay for any of the vehicles; these vehicles have been bought by the private sector," he said.

"And once we conclude the APEC summit, the vehicles will be sold to individuals or businesses that wish to acquire such a car," he added.

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