Police Commissioner David Manning’s media conference yesterday about the K200 million drug heist. Video: Loop PNG
Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk
Papuan New Guinea’s massive drug haul of more than 600kg of cocaine, seized after a mysterious plane crash by the alleged smugglers more than a week ago, has shaken authorities in both Australia and PNG.
The haul has been estimated at worth up to K200 million (A$80 million) at street value.
The collaborative operation has resulted in the arrests of at least six Australians – one in PNG – and four Papua New Guineans with investigations ongoing. Here are two reports fron the PNG daily newspapers:
By Marjorie Finkeo in Port Moresby
Four men allegedly involved in the attempted export of 28 bags of cocaine to Australia have been arrested at two locations in Port Moresby.
Two were arrested at Manu Autoport with A$40,000 (K100,000) cash and electrical items in their possession while the other two were apprehended at Sunset Lodge outside the city.
Police Commissioner David Manning said at a press conference yesterday the suspects were all PNG nationals.
A search conducted at Sanctuary Hotel at Waigani came up empty, Manning said.
He said a joint investigation was continuing and more charges were likely to be laid against the Australian pilot David Paul Cutmore who was charged under Immigration Act 1978 for illegally entering PNG and fined K3000 last Friday.
He said the investigation team was also looking at additional charges against Cutmore under the National Pandemic Act 2020. – PNG Post-Courier
Pacific Media Centre’s Southern Cross radio comment on the investigation yesterday.
By Miriam Zarriga in Port Moresby
The country’s biggest drug bust, involving more than 600kg of cocaine estimated to cost around K160 million, has been hailed as “great detective work” and the result of a two-year investigation by Australian and PNG police.
A team of police and Customs officers led by Deputy Police Commissioner Operations Donald Yamasombi found 28 black duffle bags containing “high-grade” cocaine wrapped in plastic, some Australian dollars and a flat-screen television near Papa-Lealea village, 30km outside Port Moresby last Friday.
It was near the makeshift airstrip where a Cessna 402C aircraft, which entered the country from Australia without clearance last Sunday, crashed when it tried to take off with its illegal cargo.
Police Commissioner David Manning said police knew “at the time it was a substantial amount of cocaine”.
“(There was an) organised gang involved in this and from what we knew, they were planning to have it removed from PNG via a black flight, a flight that was registered to fly into PNG airspace,” Manning said.
“We now know that the flight landed successfully (but) could not take off due to some mechanical fault.
‘Flight failed to take off’
“What ensued is the result of that flight (failing) to take off.
“The bags were left in an undisclosed location within the village.”
Australian Federal Police senior liaison officer Detective Superintendent Julian Bianco said what was achieved by both police forces was an “excellent result for law enforcement in the Pacific”.
“The seizure brings to a conclusion the long-time operation that has been overseen by the Royal PNG Constabulary and the AFP and Australian law enforcement,” Bianco said.
“Without the assistance of the PNG police and the great detective work, we certainly would not be standing here with this (illegal drugs).
“The aircraft travelled to PNG to collect drugs to take back to Australia.
“We are thankful to the PNG constabulary for stopping it from entering our shores.”
According to pictures obtained by The National, inside each of the black duffle bag was 1kg of cocaine wrapped and labelled 777.
Manning said the drug bust was the largest in the country’s history and the culmination of a two-year operation, and the result of “good detective work” by the Papua New Guinea and Australian police. – The National