PAPUA NEW GUINEA – Police in Papua New Guinea believe a village fisherman accidentally disturbed a drug-running operation after finding nearly 60 kilograms of what is suspected to be illicit drugs buried on a remote beach.
The fisherman took his discovery back to his village in Milne Bay, but the villagers were later confronted by a group of aggressive, heavily tattooed foreigners and forced to hand the drugs back.
“The guys have gone to the village – there was about seven of them – Asian looking guys with tattoos all over their body and they got aggressive with the village people, and fearing their safety they had to release those drugs,” Milne Bay Police Commander George Baiagau said.
He said the fisherman found 11 bags containing what they believed were hard drugs on the isolated beach last week.
The fisherman took the bags back to his village on Budi Budi Island and later told police that inside the bags were 55 smaller parcels.
The villagers did manage to conceal six packages from the suspected drug runners, and those parcels have now been handed over to police.
Commander Baiagau said police were yet to establish exactly what was in the parcels.
“The matter was reported to Port Moresby, I have two Australian Federal Police and two Papua New Guinean police forensics officers, they’ve arrived here for us to fully ascertain what kind of drugs they are,” he said. “We believe and assume, that the drugs were destined for Australia.”
The fisherman who found the drugs notified a radio operator on his island, who in turn alerted the Milne Bay disaster office in Alotau.
Provincial disaster coordinator Steven Tobessa said the fisherman said he found the drugs buried on a beach.
“One of the islanders from Budi Budi came across a pile of rocks on the beach and he went over to the pile, it was attached to a string,” Tobessa said.
“He is a fisherman, so he followed the string up to the beach and found 11 black travelling bags buried in the sand.”
Remote islands in PNG and the Pacific have long been used as stop-off points for drug-runners moving their cargo from places like South America to Australia.
The PNG police and defence force lack the resources to adequately patrol the country’s waterways and massive coastline.
For now though, investigations continue to determine exactly what sort of illegal drug the fisherman found.