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By Marjorie Finkeo and Miriam Zarriga in Port Moresby

Six suspects, including a woman, have been charged in connection with more than K1 million in cash seized at Komo airport in Papua New Guinea’s Hela province last weekend.

The six were charged on Monday with two counts each of money laundering and being in possession of state properties and were released on K2000 police bail each from the Tari police station on Monday evening, police said.

Hela provincial police commander Senior Inspector Robin Bore told the PNG Post-Courier yesterday that five men in their late 20s and 30s, from Papiali village outside Tari, were allegedly involved in the movement of K1.3 million (NZ$590,000 ) in cash and four single PNG Defence Force uniforms from Port Moresby to Tari on a chartered plane.

“A woman on the same flight was also charged with being in possession of a firearm,” Senior Inspector Bore said.

“The suspects were supposed to appear before court on Monday but because of the [PNG general election] polling scheduled for Monday, the courthouse was closed. They will appear for mention once the courthouse is open.”

He said all the cash and other seized properties were now locked away at the police station as exhibits for further investigation, as the police were still investigating.

On July 2, police in Hela, acting on intelligence reports, seized the cash and other property from the suspects when the plane touched down at Komo from Port Moresby.

‘No evidence’ for poll allegations
Police Commissioner David Manning told the Post-Courier in Hela that he was aware of allegations [related to the election] about how the money was to be used, but police had not found any evidence to support the allegations.

Police Commissioner Manning said the cash was still in police custody.

“It is a very serious allegation that we are putting to the five suspects we have in our custody and the onus is on us to ascertain those facts that will lead to further action to be taken,” he said.

Earlier, Prime Minister James Marape had denied any links with the cash, even though his eldest son Mospal was one of those arrested on that day.

“People are saying the money was meant to assist me, I can confirm that it is not my money, I do not need that money and I did not charter that flight,” he said.

“It is a company charter and for safety reasons they run checks at the airport, because my son was in the vicinity, police rounded up all of them.

“My son was part of a security detail that was providing security to reporters who had travelled to Komo and the Hides gas site.”

Marjorie Finkeo and Miriam Zarriga are PNG Post-Courier reporters. Republished with permission.

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