This is not the first, and sadly, not the last of incidents where counterfeit goods pass right under the noses of those who are supposed to be protecting the borders, and citizens, of PNG.
A large, white warehouse containing cigarettes of unknown origin, including manufacturing equipment, was uncovered at the Kennedy Estate through a month-long surveillance.
National Drug and Vice Squad investigator, Thomas Moiyang, believed the contents of various brands of cigarettes, including Marlboro, were all mixed together, then repacked and sold in PNG.
Equipment found in the warehouse indicated an operation that was quickly abandoned following a raid on Thursday, while repacked cigarettes in boxes were piled nearby, awaiting distribution.
This single illegal operation has breached various laws, while the Health Department is yet to establish whether the counterfeit goods contain illicit or controlled substances.
“The charges depend on various agencies, which includes Customs, Migrations, IRC (Internal Revenue Commission), IPA (Investment Promotion Authority), Health, for that matter, and Narcotics Bureau,” said Sgt Moiyang.
“They are doing the repacking then selling it, that means they are avoiding paying tax when they are selling it. When importing it, yes they pay the tax, but after repacking and doing what they can do, they sold it and they are evading tax.
“About four boxes which we saw were prepared and packed to be sent to a store in Kavieng.”
Narcotics bureau officers who were present expressed concern that the contents of the cigarettes remain unknown whilst Papua New Guineans consume them without proper regulation.
Sadly, this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Furthermore, what looked like an authentic Customs signage was hung near the entry of the illegal operation, which, according to the Drug and Vice Squad, was not there during the initial raid.
Questions remain unanswered as the investigation continues.
Meanwhile, former Customs Commissioner and current Northern Governor, Gary Juffa, said there is rampant transnational crime in PNG today.
“Human smuggling and trafficking, drugs and guns and illegal gambling syndicates, smuggling of all manners and the burgeoning counterfeiting industry is booming,” he said.
(Officials from the various line agencies with leaseholders of the warehouse)