Lawyers for the former prime minister and military chief of Papua New Guinea have disputed Jardine Fleming claims that a sacked executive was acting in a personal capacity when helping to hire mercenaries. They told a Port Moresby inquiry former Jardine assistant director Rupert McCowan had a professional relationship with the PNG government which was to his firm's commercial benefit. The lawyers challenged Jardine claims that Mr McCowan was involved in financing the mercenary deal, alleging his role was to help transfer the payments out of Papua New Guinea. The inquiry is examining events leading to a US$36 million (HK$278.28 million) contract for mercenaries to quell a six-year rebellion on the copper and gold rich island of Bougainville. The failed attempt led to the downfall of the top government officials involved. Jardine Fleming, Hong Kong's top finance company, has denied any knowledge of the plan or involvement with the mercenary company, Sandline International. Earlier this week, Jardine sacked Mr McCowan after new evidence emerged about his alleged role in the affair. It said Mr McCowan failed to tell senior management of all his activities and acted beyond his authority. It has been claimed that Mr McCowan escorted deputy prime minister Chris Haiveta to a meeting with Sandline boss Tim Spicer in London last October. Philip Payne, counsel for Jardine, told the inquiry: 'Mr McCowan was personally assisting Mr Haiveta to achieve his objective of arranging the financing of the Sandline transaction and, as Jardine Fleming had not been engaged, Mr McCowan was acting outside the scope of his employment.' Jardine said Mr McCowan was only authorised to travel to PNG for exploratory talks with the government about approaching mining giant RTZ-CRA over the sale of its 53.6 per cent stake in Bougainville Copper, which owned the Paguna copper and gold mine. But Marshall Cooke, counsel for Mr Haiveta, former prime minister Sir Julius Chan and former minister for defence Mathias Ijape, disputed that Mr McCowan helped arrange financing for the mercenaries. He told the inquiry: 'Mr McCowan's role was to assist with the transfer of funds internationally.' Mr Cooke said there was no evidence to suggest any relationship between Mr McCowan and Mr Haiveta outside of business. Peter Donigi, for sacked military leader Brigadier-General Jerry Singirok, questioned Jardine claims that Mr McCowan was acting alone. 'If he had not been the representative of Jardine, it is doubtful he would have access to ministerial offices,' said Mr Donigi.