A light plane crashes into an illegal airfield outside Port Moresby: the plane is registered with a dead man, there is no pilot, no passengers, no cargo.
A few days later, the biggest drug bust in Papua New Guinea’s history is made: over 500 kg of cocaine.
An Australian – in PNG without a passport – goes to the high commission.
Almost a week after a Cessna 402C twin-engine plane crashed under mysterious circumstances at a makeshift airfield in the Papa Lealea scrubland on the outskirts of the PNG capital, police believe they have discovered exactly what was making the plane and why he had flown. in the country.
Police say they believe the plane was involved in an attempt to smuggle a massive amount of drugs into Australia – so massive it may have crashed the plane – and is proof PNG has become a transit point for transnational criminal syndicates.
In an operation involving the Australian Federal Police (AFP), the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) and the Royal Papua New Guinea Police (RPNGC), five men from Queensland and Victoria have been charged with ‘offenses, including participation in a conspiracy to import commercial quantities. drugs and directing or assisting criminal organizations. Some charges can carry life sentences.
An Australian has been charged with immigration-related offenses in PNG, but police have said further charges, related to the alleged importation of drugs, should be brought against him.
Police allege the twin-engine Cessna took off from Mareeba in Queensland on July 26, illegally flying just 3,000 feet above the ground to PNG, in an attempt to avoid radar detection.
In a statement, police said the pilot attempted to “pick up drugs” between 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. local time on July 26.
The plane is believed to have crashed while attempting to take off, with police alleging that “greed played a significant role in the union’s activities and cannot rule out that the weight of the cocaine had an impact on the ability of the aircraft to take off ”.
PNG Police Commissioner David Manning said the drugs were hidden at the time.
“We believe the PNG members of this criminal group helped the pilot and got the drugs from the plane,” he said.
“Police are in possession of information relating to suspected PNG members of the group who have been involved in this criminal activity, including descriptions, unique features and tattoos. “
The union is said to have prepared a truck with hidden compartments to transport the drugs to South Queensland.
Late Friday, Manning announced that police – using sniffer dogs who detected traces of cocaine at the plane crash site – had discovered 28 bags of cocaine weighing 500 kg. With a value of over $ 80 million, it is the biggest drug attack in PNG history.
During a press briefing, Manning said the discovery of cocaine was confirmation that PNG was being used as a transit point by drug traffickers.
Two days after the crash, the Australian who allegedly drove the plane to PNG, David John Cutmore, went to the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby. He was accused of entering PNG illegally and fined 3000 Kina.
Police said Cutmore should face additional charges related to transporting illegal drugs.
Although police believe they have established the rationale for the clandestine plane theft, unsolved mysteries remain.
The aircraft is registered with a PNG company, Ravenpol No 69 Ltd, of which the sole director and shareholder was Geoffrey Bull Paul.
But Paul is said to have died in August last year, stabbed to death in Port Moresby. The plane was registered in the name of his company – of which he is the sole director and shareholder – in January of this year, five months after his death.
PNG Prime Minister James Marape said he was outraged that PNG was being used as a transit point for international criminal syndicates.
“We are not a banana republic where anyone can board a plane and enter PNG without notice,” he said. “We will not have a place for those who think they can sell drugs in this country.”
Police say the bust will have a major impact on the drug supply on Australia’s east coast.
Australian Border Force Deputy Commissioner Peter Timson said the organization remained resolutely focused on protecting Australia’s borders to prevent the importation of illegal drugs.
“This particularly bold attempt shows how brazen criminal enterprises can be, but it also underlines how effective law enforcement can be when we all work together,” he said.
Manning said police in Australia and PNG have a long history of working together to fight transnational crime.
“These arrests send a clear message that PNG will not tolerate transnational crime syndicates using our nation as a transit point for illicit proceeds destined for Australia,” he said. “We will continue our joint efforts to bring those involved in PNG to justice.”