PNG investigation tracks down K200m ‘biggest drug heist’ – pilot fined

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PNG drug haul
PNG drug haul ... among 28 bags containing 24 kg of cocaine was a 140 cm TV set meant as a gift to those who would have loaded the drugs onto the plane. Image: PNG Post-Courier

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

A combined investigation team seized more than K200 million ($80 million) worth of cocaine in the biggest drug heist in the history of Papua New Guinea last night, reports the PNG Post-Courier.

The 750 kg drug haul was connected to the mysterious plane crash last Sunday near the PNG LNG plant west of Port Moresby.

The Australian pilot who flew the light plane and turned himself in appeared in court yesterday and admitted to having flown the plane illegally into PNG from Mareebe in Far North Queensland, Australia.

READ MORE: More than 500 of cocaine seized as international investigation targets drug syndicate

He was fined K3000 and ordered out of PNG.

Police, Customs and National Intelligence officers, with assistance from the Australian Federal Police, have successfully confiscated what Pandemic Controller and Police Commissioner David Manning described as the “biggest drug heist” in years.

Among the 28 bags containing 24 kg of cocaine was a 140 cm TV set meant as a gift to those who would have successfully loaded the drugs onto the plane.

The accused pilot, David John Cutmore, 52, from Williams Landing, Melbourne Australia, admitted and pleaded guilty to one charge of unlawful entry in breach of immigration laws.

The maximum penalty for the charge of illegal entry is K5000 fine or six months imprisonment.

Maximum sentence sought
Police prosecution during submission on sentence asked the court to impose the maximum penalty of K5000 fine since the offence of illegal entry was serious.

The court was told that the accused did not have any passport or visa and flew an aircraft into the country illegally.

A high-ranking police officer and others alleged to be heavily involved in the drug plane crash at Papa village in Papua New Guinea’s Central Province last Sunday are named in tomorrow’s Sunday Bulletin. Image: PMC screenshot

Although the court was told of illegal dealings, including drug trade, no evidence was provided to the court.

The court, presided by Magistrate Tracey Ganai, ordered a K3000 fine considering that the police prosecutors did not provide any evidence or exhibits of illegal items allegedly in the procession of the accused pilot.

The court also noted there was no evidence presented on whether police were pursuing additional charges.

The only charge was illegal entry in breach of immigration laws.

Magistrate Ganai ruled that the accused pilot pay a fine of K3000 and be deported immediately.

Failure to pay fine would result in a prison term of 4 months and deportation after completion of the prison term.

Now that evidence has surfaced, additional charges could be laid.

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