THE fate of Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Michael Somare hangs in the balance, as a leadership tribunal considers 25 misconduct allegations dating back as far as 1992.
A three-member bench began hearing the allegations, which relate to missing or incomplete financial statements, in Port Moresby today.
Both the defence and prosecution spent the first day presenting evidence which entails mountains of paperwork connected to Sir Michael's financial records.
The highly-charged case, which is expected to take weeks, will probe Sir Michael's alleged failure to make financial statements or complete them on time.
It is also expected to decide whether Sir Michael must stand down as prime minister during the hearing.
Ian Molloy QC, acting for the prime minister, started today's proceedings with a push for an adjournment until a concurrent Supreme Court challenge is resolved.
Since 2008, Sir Michael has been fighting the tribunal on the grounds the original Ombudsman Commission probe into the prime minister was bias and procedurally flawed.
Mr Molloy also made an application for the charges of misconduct to be dismissed, saying they were "ambiguous and not an offence under the law".
But the three-man bench, chaired by former Australian Federal Court judge Roger Gyles, rejected these attempts to derail the tribunal.
The prosecution didn't get an easy ride either.
During the afternoon session, Judge Gyles questioned why it had taken so long for the allegations to be brought before the court.
"It is rather surprising that we are looking at dates like 1992 and 1993 in 2011," he told the prosecution team.
The courtroom was packed with the who's who of PNG's political elite, with the prime minster flanked by his cabinet and family members.
Near the courtroom, a small group of protesters gathered, demanding an end to what they said was systemic corruption stifling PNG's development.
Sir Michael, 74, has been PNG's prime minister four times in a political career spanning more than 40 years.
While the tribunal delves into Sir Michael's alleged neglect on administrative grounds, the process could expose some facts about the true wealth of the prime minister, including possible undisclosed earnings, assets and numerous properties world-wide.
The hearing will resume at 2.30pm (AEDT) tomorrow.