7th Suspect Charged in Papua New Guinea-Australia Methamphetamine Case

A 41-year-old woman was charged Wednesday with allegedly helping to fly more than 70 kilograms of methamphetamine from Papua New Guinea to Australia,  the Australian Federal Police (AFP) reported.

Operation Gepard Papua N GuineaThe woman allegedly assisted in the logistics of shipping the methamphetamine from Papua New Guinea to New South Wales, Australia. (Photo: © Commonwealth of Australia 2023, License)In March 2023, authorities intercepted a flight loaded with five bags of methamphetamine in rural Queensland. The flight was traveling from the Bulolo district of Papua New Guinea and was bound for New South Wales, Australia.

Australian police refer to such flights as “black flights,” meaning a light aircraft that logs false flight plans (or no log at all), flies at a very low altitude or turns off flight monitoring systems to avoid law enforcement or aviation monitoring systems.

The woman allegedly facilitated the importation of this drug, the storage of the methamphetamine prior to importation, the purchase of bags for transportation, the payment for fuel and the airstrip in Bulolo district used for the black flight.

Through a search warrant at the woman's property in Brisbane, Queensland's capital city, authorities determined that the methamphetamine had been stored at the woman's business premises in Papua New Guinea prior to the flight. In addition, electronic devices and financial records were seized.

This brings to seven the number of people in Australia allegedly linked to a transnational organized crime syndicate. Eight people in Papua New Guinea have also been arrested in connection with the syndicate.

Now the woman faces one count for importing a commercial quantity of methamphetamine and one count for trafficking in proceeds of crime, money or property valued at $10,000 or more.

“Criminals will go to great, and often dangerous, lengths to get drugs into Australia, and this matter is an example of that. This investigation is also an example of how the AFP will continue to pursue organised crime groups no matter what state or country they operate in, or how long it takes,” said an unidentified AFP commander.

“Methamphetamine is an insidious drug that has ripple effects on the user, their loved ones and the wider community. This importation had an estimated street value of more than $15 million.”

Meanwhile, ongoing investigations seek to determine how the drug entered Papua New Guinea, a drug transit country that is becoming increasingly important in the trade of methamphetamines and other synthetic drugs from the Mekong region (Cambodia, the People's Republic of China, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam) to countries such as Australia.