A SUCCESSFUL operation between the PNG Transnational Crime Unit (TCU) of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary and Australian federal police (AFP), has busted an international drug ring, resulting in the apprehension and imprisonment of a high-profile engineer in Lae, all in the space of a few hours.
Law enforcers believed six Papua New Guineans and Australians had been planning for the best part of this year to smuggle about 500kg of cannabis from Lae to Brisbane before moving in at the weekend.
Around 1pm on Saturday, Morobe provincial plant manager of the Department of Works, Steven Tubavai, was served a search warrant by TCU officers, and had his office and two other residential houses at Malaita Street and Milfordhaven Road searched, where the officers discovered 18.9kg of cannabis in his room.
Tubavai, an applied pysician by profession.
Originally from Kainantu, Eastern Highlands province, was taken to the Lae police headquarter where he was interrogated and formally arrested before being brought to trial in a special hearing at the Lae District Court that same afternoon.
He denied ownership of the cannabis, saying he was keeping it on behalf of someone else.
However, he was found guilty under section 3(1)(d) of Dangerous Drug Act, and was sentenced to two years with hard labour and was transported to Buimo Jail on the same day.
The parallel operation between the two organisations received sufficient information, where investigators believe Tubavai was the mastermind of the drug ring which involved three Australians and two other Papua New Guineans.
Court documents showed that they planned for almost seven months and were constantly communicating.
The National could not at this stage confirm the fate of Tubavai’s associates in Australia and in PNG.