Alleged illegal operation was legal: Customs

PNG Customs has called for collaboration as it says the warehouse that was part of a drug raid last week belonged to a licensed business.

A warehouse at the Kennedy Estate at Eight-Mile, outside Port Moresby, was under a month-long surveillance by the National Drug and Vice Squad until the bust last week.

A large, white warehouse containing cigarettes of unknown origin, including manufacturing equipment, were uncovered at the Kennedy Estate.

National Drug and Vice Squad investigator, Thomas Moiyang, alleged the contents of various brands of cigarettes, including Marlboro, were all mixed together, then repacked and sold in PNG.

However, Customs Chief Commissioner, Ray Paul, defended the Asian-owned operation.

“We have a company that has been operating for the last eight years,” said Paul. “And the company has complied with Customs regulation, we have issued them Customs licence to operate. They’ve been importing and only this year, they intend to go into manufacturing.

“And they have approached Customs and we have given them licence to operate this business.

“Unfortunately, what has happened was something that we were not aware of. And we were only told, since it was a Customs control area, our officers were allowed to go in to open the premises.”

Paul said Customs has issued close to 38 licences to businesses to operate a bond facility – to store goods when they import – or secondly, to manufacture products.

“Tobacco, beer, alcohol – those are the main excise products

“We have close to 17 depots that we have approved as Customs control areas.

“If there’s a legitimate company in place, let’s try to respect the business. The business that come in, they’ve invested in this country; they employ our people.”

Paul commended police for their efforts but emphasised on cooperation.

On the contents of the cigarettes, Paul says they will verify from their end once they receive a report from the drug squad.

Sgt Moiyang, on the other hand, said it was a police operation where a search warrant was executed.

“There was no need to inform Customs until and unless they are required. The search warrant was acted on based on our intel.”

Meantime, Sgt Moiyang revealed that the firm, Golden Borough Ltd, had served him (Police Department) a court order and the case will be heard on Friday.

(Customs Chief Commissioner, Ray Paul)

Carmella Gware