Australian pilot detained in PNG over mystery plane crash allegedly linked to drugs

A wrecked white plane with yellow and blue stripes lies on the grass.
The plane was not cleared to enter PNG and flight tracking shows it set out from Mareeba in Far North Queensland.(Supplied: Russell Saigomi)

The plane was not cleared to enter PNG and flight tracking shows it set out from Mareeba in Far North Queensland.

An Australian man has been detained in Papua New Guinea amid an ongoing investigation into a plane crash, which police suggest may be linked to drug trafficking.

Key points:

  • DFAT said it was providing consular assistance to a man detained in PNG
  • The pilot has reportedly been charged with illegal entry into the country
  • Records show the plane was registered to a PNG company headed by a dead businessman
  • The Cessna 402C was found empty with its pilot missing near what appeared to be a makeshift runway at Papa Lea Lea, about 30 kilometres north-west of Port Moresby, on Monday.

The plane was not cleared to enter PNG and flight tracking shows it set out from Mareeba in Far North Queensland on Sunday morning.

The ABC is in the process of verifying the identity of the Australian pilot with PNG police.

Local media is reporting the Australian pilot handed himself in to the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby yesterday and has since been charged with illegal entry.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was providing consular assistance to a man detained in PNG but would not comment further.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) said its officers were working with PNG police to investigate the circumstances around the plane’s arrival.

In a statement, the AFP said it was alleged the pilot attempted to “collect drugs” between 1:00pm and 2:30pm local time on July 26. The plane is believed to have crashed while attempting to take off.

“We believe the PNG members of this criminal group assisted the pilot and retrieved the drugs from the plane,” AFP Commissioner David Manning said, urging those with information to come forward.

The AFP said: “Police are in possession of information related to the suspected PNG members of the group who have been involved in this criminal activity, including descriptions, unique features and tattoos.”

The unusual circumstances surrounding the plane’s arrival has also attracted plenty of interest and speculation in PNG.

PNG Prime Minister James Marape called on PNG and Australian police to work together to prosecute all those involved.

“We are not a banana republic where anyone can pick up a plane and just come into PNG unannounced,” he told local media yesterday.

He said information from the police commissioner suggested the plane may have been involved in drug trafficking and foreshadowed tougher penalties for traffickers.

“We will have no place for those who think they could peddle drugs in this country,” Mr Marape said.

Mystery plane owned by a dead man
Questions also surround the plane’s ownership with records showing it was registered to a PNG company headed by a dead businessman.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority’s (CASA) aircraft register shows Ravenpol No. 69 Limited became the Cessna’s registration holder in January this year.

Company records show Geoffrey Paul Bull is Ravenpol’s sole director and shareholder, but he died in violent circumstances in August last year.

A death certificate obtained by the ABC shows the 56-year-old died from multiple stab wounds to his chest.

The certificate states his occupation as “businessman” as well as president of a political party, the Peoples’ Democratic Movement Party.

The mystery plane’s listed operator also said it had never flown the plane.

CASA’s register lists Alice Springs-based aviation company Avlease Pty Ltd as the Cessna’s registered operator.

But Avlease’s director Ian Scheyer said his company had never operated the plane and he could not explain why it was listed on the register.

Link: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-07-30/aussie-pilot-detained-in-png-over-mystery-plane-crash/12508584

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