Australia charges 5 people after drugs found in Papua plane crash

SYDNEY • Five alleged members of an Australia-based crime ring have been charged after hundreds of kilograms of cocaine were discovered in a plane that crashed after take-off in Papua New Guinea, the police said last Saturday.

Australian Federal Police allege that greed played a big part in the syndicate's activities, and they cannot rule out that the weight of the cocaine had an impact on the plane's ability to take off.

The five, all described as members of a Melbourne-based criminal syndicate with alleged links to Italian organised crime, were charged with conspiring to import 500kg of cocaine worth some A$80 million (S$78 million) and other related crimes, the police said in a statement.

The July 26 crash occurred as the drug-laden plane attempted to take off from a remote airstrip in Papa Lea Lea, about 30km north of Papua New Guinea's capital of Port Moresby, en route to Australia.

The cocaine stash, which the police said was "the equivalent of about 500,000 street deals", was discovered late on Friday.

The five people arrested, who were not on the flight but were implicated in the smuggling operation, were detained in Queensland and Victoria after the Cessna model light aircraft left Mareeba Airport in Australia on July 26 for its mission to Papua New Guinea. They face a maximum penalty of life in prison if convicted.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

  • $78m

    Value of the 500kg of cocaine found on the plane.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 03, 2020, with the headline 'Australia charges 5 people after drugs found in Papua plane crash'. Print Edition | Subscribe