By BARNABAS ORERE PONDROS
PNG Customs and the Transnational Crime Unit had a successful operation in the Highlands, dubbed high altitude, confiscating seven firearms and more than 400 rounds of ammunitions held by several foreign businessmen illegally, raising serious concerns on the proliferation of arms in the region.
Customs Commissioner Gary Juffa, who revealed this yesterday, said the scary fact was that one of the guns, an MP5 submachine gun, a police beret and a teargas canister illegally held by a top Asian businessman in the region, were licenced to police.
The businessman, when questioned about how he came to be in possession of these police-issued items, said a senior police officer (named), currently under suspension, had left them with him during an operation in the Highlands.
For this particular case, there was another twist, where after the businessman failed to provide firearm licences, on the same day, firearm licences were faxed to him from Port Moresby, which he later produced to the officials conducting the raid.
This raised serious questions about whether there was a conflict of interest with some members of the police having links with foreign nationals.
“This is a very serious matter and Customs will be undertaking continuous investigations because the proliferation of arms in the community contributes to crime and violence,” Mr Juffa said.
He said Customs would step up efforts to combat the proliferation of arms that were being smuggled across our borders and also released to people from law enforcement agencies.
“The proliferation of arms must be stopped and strategies for local disarmament pursued to ensure our communities are safe and trouble-free because it has resulted in increased rates of violence and crime.”
The operations also lead to the arrest and prosecution of four illegal immigrants of Chinese descent.
It is understood that the Hagen District Court had ordered their deportation and their bail money of K5,000 each has been forfeited to the State.
Forty suspected fake Cambridge cigarette cartons were also confiscated.
The operation was undertaken in the Western Highlands (Minj, Banz and Mt Hagen) and Porgera, Enga, involving 31 personal collectively from Customs, the Transnational Crime Unit, police prosecution, the police mobile squad and the British American Tobacco (PNG) Ltd.
Mr Juffa said Customs would continue to collaborate with other agencies to address issues confronting PNG and he praised and thanked all members involved in the operation.
An officer, who was involved in the operation, on the condition of anonymity, said: “We feel that we have touched the tip of the iceberg where foreigners are involved in human smuggling and other illegal activities, and we plead for more support and funding.”