PNG Investigating How Meth Flight Suspect Got Citizenship

Published: 27 March 2024

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Australian Federal Police arrest Mei Lin at her home in Brisbane. (Photo: Australian Federal Police, License)

By Julie Badui Owa and Dan McGarry

Authorities in Papua New Guinea are investigating how a China-born businesswoman accused of orchestrating a methamphetamine “black flight” was able to obtain PNG citizenship, the country’s immigration minister said, after OCCRP and partners revealed she appeared to have falsified key parts of her citizenship application.

Mei Lin, 41, was charged in Brisbane in January for allegedly helping facilitate the smuggling of 71.5 kg of crystal meth from PNG to Australia last year by light plane, in what police have argued was intended to be the first of a series of smuggling attempts. She has pleaded not guilty.

OCCRP and its local partner center Inside PNG have previously revealed how Lin, a powerful businesswoman in the city of Lae, built a web of ties with prominent PNG citizens.

The report also revealed that she appeared to obtain PNG citizenship in 2016 by falsely claiming to have attended two elite local schools.

“We understand that the person that was arrested is a PNG citizen, and Immigration is currently investigating the process of how she got her citizenship,” PNG’s deputy prime minister and immigration minister, John Rosso, told OCCRP and Inside PNG.

Among other details, OCCRP and Inside PNG’s January investigation revealed that Lin’s 2016 citizenship application included a letter  — rife with grammar and spelling errors — purporting to confirm her attendance at Port Moresby Grammar School that school authorities say was signed by a non-existent staff member.

Lin’s questionable citizenship application is not her only entanglement in PNG’s immigration system. Reporting by OCCRP and other media has also revealed that companies linked to Lin have benefitted from a controversial Australian-funded program to care for refugees that is now being probed for corruption.

Australian authorities have also alleged that Lin ordered one of her accomplices to pay A$10,000 (US$ 6,546) to a Sydney bank account in the name of PNG’s then-chief migration officer, Stanis Hulahau, in order to obtain a visa to travel to PNG to take part in the drug trafficking scheme.

Hulahau resigned in February and has not been charged with any crime.