He has specifically responded to allegations made against him, the Commissioner of Police (CoP) David Manning, and Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Donald Yamasombi.
The Minister said: “At this point I can confirm that, firstly, DCP Donald Yamasombi had no part in the drug smuggling operation or attempted to cover it up. This is confirmed by the fact Australian Federal Police (AFP) were aware of the persons involved, and DCP Yamasmobi was clearly not one of them, otherwise he would be the last person they would contact and share information with.
“Secondly, allegations police were on the ground to cover up the attempted drug smuggling operation is also false. The heavy presence of police in the area on the day of the crash were the actual team in communication with AFP to locate the crash site.
“Thirdly, the suggestion that had the plane not crashed, the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC) would have never had known is also wrong. AFP and RPNGC were aware of the planned drug operation.
“AFP were monitoring the plane the moment it left Australia and were waiting for it to return to Australia with the drugs before seizing them. However, because the plane crashed, the drug bust was done in PNG.
“Fourthly, the claim that a Hevi-lift helicopter was there to airlift the plane is also baseless. In fact, it’s ridiculous. It was a Bell 202 passenger helicopter and it is clearly not designed to uplift a 3 tonne Cessna plane.
“I will release information from time to time provided such information does not interfere with ongoing investigations, and at present, below are the facts as I know them.”
- Australian Federal Police (AFP) were carrying out a covert two-year surveillance operation of an Italian organised criminal syndicate in Melbourne, Australia. The operation was named “Weathers”.
- In the course of their operation, they obtained information of the syndicate’s plan to smuggle drugs from South America to Australia using PNG as a transit point.
- In August 2019, the information was shared with the RPNGC, namely Commissioner of Police David Manning and Deputy Commissioner for Police Donald Yamasombi. To avoid compromising the ongoing operation, information was only shared at the highest levels of RPNGC.