ALLIED Gold executive chairman Mark Caruso said yesterday that there was no evidence to suggest that the 14 Fijians are mercenaries.
“They were brought in with legally-issued permits (visas),” Mr Caruso said from Australia.
“There is no evidence against these innocent men who are in PNG after going through proper PNG immigration procedures to enter the country as security services personnel, or security consultants.”
Mr Caruso said by telephone that the Fijians were employed at Simberi for “a duly designated training programme”.
Mr Caruso’s comments were confirmed by PNG Government officials who said the 14 Fijians had valid visas. Six had business permits, six arrived under the Melanesian Spearhead Group arrangement for visa to be granted on arrival while the other two’s status could not be verified.
However, all 14 were in PNG as security consultants, the officials said.
The PNG Immigrations and the Police Department dispatched a police task force from Tomaringa in Rabaul, East New Britain who arrived at the Simberi Gold Co Ltd mine on the Tabar Group of islands where they rounded up the 14 Fijians, placed them under detention and flew them to Kavieng and Port Moresby on Wednesday.
According to officials, the Fijians had been asked to leave PNG voluntarily.