US SALVAGE FIRM DENIES REMOVING PNG WAR RELIC

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, March 26) - AERO Archaeology has denied claims that it has illegally shipped out parts of the B17 Swamp Ghost wreckage to Brisbane.

In an email to The National, owner Alfred Hagen said his company had followed the laws of PNG and had no intention of violating them.

"No parts of the Swamp Ghost have been shipped anywhere and I wish that the relevant authorities would simply check with me or my designees in PNG to ascertain the truth before making misleading accusations," he said.

"I suspect that the repeated lies and exaggerations issued in the local papers are part of a campaign to discredit me and my honorable efforts to work with the PNG Government to resolve this issue amicably."

Mr. Hagen, whose company is based in Pennsylvania, USA, was responding to reports quoting senior PNG Customs officials that parts of the plane were shipped out in a container to Brisbane on February 27.

The officials told The National that they were not informed and had started an investigation.

Hagen described the claims as "repeated lies and exaggerations" to discredit him and his efforts to work with the PNG Government to resolve this issue amicably.

He said, "I am weary with being slandered without cause. PNG legally sold me the rights to the B17. I was issued an export permit prior to my recovery. I could not have been more diligent or professional in my dealings."

He said the authorities had virtually refused to honor a valid contract with an international firm and that it did not reflect well on the country.

"How can any international firm contemplate investing hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars when contracts are disregarded and violated with such flagrant disregard?"

However, he was still hopeful that the Government would, after investigations, recognize his rights and act accordingly.

In the report, The National also contacted Steamships Shipping Agency, which said that it had only shipped out parts of another plane.

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