Three Papua New Guinea police officers have been presented with Australian and US awards for their roles in a multi-national drug investigation that halted 169kg of methamphetamine from hitting the streets of Australia and PNG in 2021.
The officers from the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC) were recognised for their key roles in the investigation, which led to 60 containers of methamphetamine being seized in PNG and legislative reform in that country.
An Australian Federal Police (AFP) officer was also presented with a US award for her role in the investigation.
The AFP, RPNGC and US Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) launched Operation Saki Bomb in June, 2021, after a suspicious freight consignment was detected in the US destined for PNG.
An Australian man and two PNG nationals were arrested in PNG after US investigators discovered 168kg of methamphetamine hidden in 60 containers on board the ship.
Authorities removed the bulk of the substance for a controlled delivery to the intended recipient in PNG.
Officers executed a search warrant of the consignment delivery address where they seized multiple mobile phones and laptops, documents and an unregistered firearm and ammunition.
The three men were charged with offences relating to the importation of the narcotics.
Due to PNG legislation at the time, a number of charges were not able to be prosecuted successfully, however the investigation was the catalyst for legislative reform with the Controlled Substance Act 2021 being implemented.
The AFP has previously recognised the contribution of a number of RPNGC Transnational Crime Unit members and AFP officers involved in the operation in PNG in 2022.
At the recent award ceremony, both AFP and HSI presented awards including the HSI for ‘Outstanding Accomplishments for Narcotics and Contraband Smuggling’ to:
- PNG Customs Commissioner Benjamin Sine
- RPNGC Acting Deputy Commissioner Donald Yamasombi
- RPNGC Transnational Crime Unit member Senior Sergeant Manu Pulei
- AFP Inspector Sue Smith
The AFP also presented Commissioner’s Certificate’s to PNG Customs Commissioner Sine, RPNGC Acting Deputy Commissioner Yamasombi and RPNGC Director of Water Police Christopher Smith.
The awards were officiated by the US Department of Homeland Security Investigations Regional Attaché Ernest Verina and Acting Australian High Commissioner to PNG Ms Joanne Loundes.
AFP Detective Superintendent Brendon Withers said RPNGC Pacific Transnational Crime Network (PTCN) members were instrumental in the success of the investigation.
“The AFP and our partners take our responsibility to stop criminals using the Pacific as a maritime drug highway to Australia very seriously,” Detective Superintendent Withers said.
“These members have done an outstanding job and contributed to disrupting transnational and serious organised crime in the region.
“The AFP and RPNGC have a long history of working together, especially in relation to combatting transnational crime and we look forward to building on this strong partnership.”
RPNGC Acting Deputy Commissioner Donald Yamasombi said evil-minded elements were seizing every opportunity to expand their illegal activities.
“As such, it is high time for law enforcement agencies to collaborate and disrupt these activities,” Acting Deputy Commissioner Yamasombi said.
“Op Saki Bomb is a case in point. I’m hopeful such collaborations between law enforcement agencies within the region and globally would continue to grow to enable safer communities for our people.”
“Joint investigations, like the one being recognized, are vital to stopping illicit narcotics smuggling,” HSI Regional Attaché Ernie Verina said.
“I commend the dedicated officers, agents, detectives, investigators, and prosecutors whose international efforts and collaboration led to this outstanding accomplishment.”