Highlands Police Implicated In PNG Alcohol Smuggling

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Officers found escorting about $74,000 worth of illegal liquor

By Johnny Poiya

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, April 2, 2013) – A liquor smuggling syndicate involving police officers in Papua New Guinea’s Highlands region has surfaced with the arrest of four Mendi-based policemen last Thursday.

The policemen in uniform and armed with one police issued firearm, were escorting a truck trying to smuggle 200 cartons of assorted alcohol that cost K160,000 [US$74,146] into Southern Highlands Province when they were arrested by Mt. Hagen based police mobile squad officers who were conducting Easter patrols along the Highlands Highway.

Highlands Divisional Police Commander Teddy Tei said yesterday the truck made two attempts to get past the checkpoint at Wara Kagul but could not as security personnel there were alert.

The driver and crew made their first attempt on Tuesday night and second attempt on Wednesday during the early morning hours.

When they could not get through, they returned to Pabarabuk in the Nebilyer District and waited while the two communicated with the owner of the alcohol who then contacted and arranged for the Mendi-based policemen to escort the alcohol across the checkpoint.

Locals in the area were aware of the frequent illegal trade and looted all the stuff while the policemen watched helplessly.

The mobile squad unit arrived when there were only eight cartons of OP and four white SP canned beer cartons were left.

Chief Tei said when questioned by the police patrol, the four policemen replied that they were there to escort the liquor into Southern Highlands.

They were using a hired vehicle, presumably hired by the owner of the liquor.

They were then arrested and charged and brought back to the Mt. Hagen police cells in full uniform and the firearm confiscated. They appear in court today.

"We believe this is a syndicate that has been smuggling alcohol into Southern Highlands and Hela provinces over the past years."

"We arrested somebody who claims to be the owner of the illegal stuff," Chief Tei said.

"We’ve locked the four policemen in the cell in full uniform to show other officers that those who see fit to get involved in such illegal activities belong to the jail."

The four were suspended for 21 days to allow for investigations and would be disciplined separately by the police force while the court deals with them under the laws of the country.

Under police regulations, officers travelling outside of the province must have a written permission from the PPC.

Southern Highlands PPC Kaiglo Ambane said he was not aware of the four travelling out of the province.

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