BARNABAS ORERE PONDROS
CONFUSION surrounds the ownership and importation of an assortment of deadly weapons that were confiscated by Customs officials from a man coming from the Philippines on an Air Niugini flight into Port Moresby.
On Sunday at 5am, Customs officers seized four high-powered Colt assault rifles and a semi-automatic Glock 9mm pistol from the man after he disembarked PX011.
Customs officials believed the import and luggage declaration documents held by the man were not in order and forfeited the arms to the State, as stipulated by the Customs Act.
The man (named) claimed he was transporting the weapons for a licenced arms dealer, but Customs said the man was no longer employed by the firm.
However, after further investigations Customs learnt that the man left the firm, but was later rehired.
Customs Commissioner Gary Juffa explained last night that the concern now following investigations was to determine the ownership of the weapons.
It was said the weapons were brought in for the State.
The three parties involved now are the licenced arms dealer, its agent and the State.
“If we identify and confirm that the weapons belong to the State, then we will have to verify why they were brought into the country in such a manner,” he said.
Mr Juffa stressed there were procedures in place for importation of firearms.
He also noted that on any import permit, he had to countersign after the police commissioner.
The document held by the man was said to have the signature of the Police Commissioner Gari Baki, signed on Oct 6.
Mr Baki earlier said he was not aware of the seizure and why the weapons were brought in.
However, last night he said: “I signed the documents for such imports.
“There is nothing to deny, but how it ended up in the wrong hands is something we will investigate thoroughly and get to the bottom of it.”
Mr Baki maintained that the man was not an employee of the dealer.
“If the documents are signed, it has to be through the recognised dealer, and the man caught with the weapons is a former employee of the licenced dealer,” he said.
Mr Baki reiterated that documents for the importation of firearms were only signed and processed for recognised and licenced arms dealers.
He said last night that he was yet to peruse Customs reports on the matter, and as soon as he did, he would address it.
Air Niugini’s chief executive officer Wasantha Kumarasiri said the weapons were declared under the IATA Dangerous Goods procedures and had clearance from Philippine police as well.
“In compliance with the Dangerous Goods procedures, when the guns were brought to check in, they were declared and had the police clearance from Philippines allowing Air Niugini to uplift the cargo,” he said.
He maintained that Air Niugini strictly ensured documents were in order, and in this case, “we have documents signed by PNG Police”.
He said there was nothing improper on Air Niugini’s part.