Username Password
Four suspects in cocaine haul arrested in PNG
11:22 pm GMT+12, 03/08/2020, Papua New Guinea

Four men allegedly involved in the attempted export of 28 bags of cocaine to Australia have been arrested at two locations in Port Moresby.

Police Commissioner David Manning said at a press conference Monday the suspects were all PNG nationals.

Manning is calling on the public to refrain from making any false allegations on social media regarding the ongoing cocaine investigation.

He said the recent seizure of a huge quantity of cocaine last Friday in the South of Papa/Lealea villages just 30 minutes outside of Port Moresby by Acting Deputy Police Commissioner Operations Donald Yamasombi and team is to be commended.

Manning commended Yamasombi and his men for the excellent effort in recovering the drugs as well as cash and making a number of arrests.

“As the Commissioner of Police I am satisfied with the performance of Yamasombi…In fact I commend him and his men for their excellent effort in making this arrest and recovering the drugs as well as the evidence on hand,” he said.

He urged the public to come forward with evidence or refrain from making these unfounded allegations because they can be charged with obstruction.

“I will continue to stand by my men and women until and unless evidence dictates otherwise,” he added.

He appealed to everyone to understand that this is a new and difficult challenge for the constabulary given the fact that it is inadequately resourced and further operates under out-dated legislative frameworks dealing with such crimes.

On Sunday 26 July a small light aircraft was said to have landed at Papa/Lealea. It was alleged to have loaded 28 bags of cocaine and crashed whilst attempting to take off.

The Australian pilot now identified as David John Cutmore, 52 years old presented himself to the Australian High Commission on Tuesday 28 July 2020. After the Consular had spoken to him, he was handed over to the RPNGC and detained at the Immigration Detention Centre at Bomana and further interviewed.

Police reconstructed the scene with his assistance and raised a number of search warrants.

On 30 July Police executed some of these search warrants at the Sunset Lodge at Papa/Lealea and arrested two suspects being two PNG male nationals. Soon after another search warrant was executed on the Sanctuary Hotel but police were unable to uncover any evidence.

On Friday 31 July further enquiries were made which led to the arrest of another suspect at the Manu Auto Port which led to a local lodge in the city in which a large amount of Australian cash and TV screens were retrieved – these are believed to be items that were brought in on the plane. Another suspect was apprehended on the same day. Both suspects had in their possession AUD$20,000(US$14,246) along with confiscated electrical items which are believed to have been brought in on the plane. The suspects confessed to the location of the drug which they said was at a location South of Papa/Lealea. The drugs were located and retrieved on the same day.

“Further enquiries are being made to identify others involved in the syndicate. The pilot was charged under the Migration Act 1978 for illegally entering PNG and fined K3,000(US$861). The Constabulary is cooperating with the Australian authorities in relation to his involvement with others in the conspiracy to import the drugs into Australia.

“If the pilot was charged under the PNG laws his maximum sentence would be 2 years for possession of drugs. Whereas his activities in Australia under Australian laws would carry a maximum 25 year imprisonment,” Manning said.

However, he added that the investigators are now looking at laying additional charges on Mr Cutmore under the National Pandemic Act 2020.

“We have risen to and met the challenge with our foreign partners. Together we have effectively disrupted the activities of a significant transnational organised crime group who prey on the vulnerability of nations such as PNG to achieve their criminal intentions,” Manning said.

Further information has identified additional enquiry into how the drugs came into PNG as investigations are ongoing.

Meanwhile, an internal investigation carried out by air service authorities’ shows that the Australian owned plane crash outside Port Moresby a week ago landed illegally without a landing permit.

The pilot allegedly turned off the transponder and the ADS-B equipment in the aircraft that will not detect the surveillance system, thus the pilot did not file a flight plan as they did not have any information about the flight in their system, according to Airport Service Limited (ASL).

The Minister of Civil Aviation Lekwa Gure said in a statement last Friday, that under Civil Aviation Rules Part 157, airstrips are constructed after its determination of its suitability to be used when authorised by aviation under aeronautical study, however such procedure was not followed to submit an application to CASA.

PNG Accident Investigation Commission (AIC) has not found the departure of the plane yet before landing in the country.

He said after playing back the radar and ADS-B data to see if the aircraft was picked up by the surveillance system.

He said it had confirmed that it wasn’t picked up, which means that the pilot turned off the transponder and the ADS-B equipment in the aircraft to avoid detection by radar.

He said where and when the equipment was turned off is yet to be established.

The investigations have also shown that the pilot did not at any stage to make flights in the country, they first knew of the crash landing when the emergency locator transmitter was active and the signal was picked up by satellite and relayed to PNG ASL.

“From the preliminary factual information, any sensible person can draw the conclusion that the flight was on a convert operation but for what reason we do not know,” he said.

He said as Prime Minister James Marape is calling for investigation, he is joining the Marape for relevant authorities to carry out the investigation.

“I also called on the Australia Federal Police to assist our police to investigate the incident,” he said.

He said the PNG Accident Investigation Commission has commenced an independent investigation under PNG Civil Aviation Act 2000 to provide a report within a stated period of time.


News feature
There are no related media to this article.
Pacific Islands News Association
Who & What is PINA?
Member Countries
Media Freedom
PINA Convention
Communications Initiative
International News Safety Institute (INSI)
Media Helping Media