PORT MORESBY ) —The cocaine recently confiscated in an international drug bust outside Port Moresby will be sent to Australia, says Papua New Guinea chief police investigator on the case.
Deputy Commissioner Donald Yamasombi said the 28 bags of cocaine belonged to Australia and would be returned to that country.
He said Police Commissioner David Manning was also concerned about the security of the drugs being kept in PNG.
He said especially in the light of the massive amount of money involved, an estimated street value of just under AUD$80 million (K200 million).
The drugs were seized last month west of Port Moresby after a light plane crashed, which investigators said was attempting to transport the drugs to Australia.
This revelation immediately raised the question of jurisdiction and what was going to happen to the suspects, two foreigners and three nationals, who have been arrested and are facing court in PNG in connection with the drug syndicate, but Yamasombi said the arrested men can be extradited to Australia to face trial there.
“We are going to send the drugs to Australia once the legal process between the two countries is completed,” Yamasombi told the Post Courier.
He said the five suspects could be extradited under Australian law. He said Australia had their own laws and if they wanted those suspects involved, they could be further investigated under their law even if they were already charged under PNG laws.
“National Pandemic Controller David Manning is also concerned about the security of the drugs kept here and the substantial amount of drugs in the country,” Yamasombi said.
The suspects who appeared in court were identified as David John Cutmore, 52, Carlo D’Attanasio, 52, Morgan Magu, 35, Dominic Terupo, 35 and Shane Dikana, 30.
Each suspect was slapped with separate charges, according to each of their alleged involvements in the recent transitional movement of 611kg of cocaine.
In Parliament Thursday, Prime Minister James Marape let slip that the seized cocaine had already been moved to Australia and was being kept in a safe place, without giving much detail.
But Yamasombi later denied this, telling the Post Courier that negotiations were still ongoing between both countries on the fate of the drugs.
Opposition Leader Belden Namah said the government’s actions raised a lot of questions and he would hold the Prime Minister and police to task over this new development.
“Aren’t they (the cocaine) supposed to be the property of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea? So the actions taken by the Marape-Steven Government to send the drugs over to Australia is in contradiction to the laws of our country,” Namah said.
“How can we hold these people that we have arrested and charged and who are appearing in court without physical evidence of the cocaine?
“I would be asking him questions on this drug issue and one of questions would be why did fly those drugs to Australia, undermining your own constitution and why aren’t you trusting your own systems? Are you avoiding something here?”
Australian and PNG police say they had been monitoring the drug syndicate for close to two years and were getting close, when the light plane, which flew into PNG from Australia, crashed as it was lifting off from a rugged makeshift airstrip west of Port Moresby.
The crash and the seizure of the cocaine brought the massive syndicate unstuck. Australian police believed the syndicate involved Italian organised crime gangs and Australian bikie gangs based in Melbourne.
They have made several arrests since the plane crash in PNG, and investigations are continuing…..PACNEWS