Torres Strait Seen as Easier Location to Traffic Narcotics By Attempted Cocaine Traffickers
December 12: International drug traffickers see the Torres Strait between Australia and Papua New Guinea as a “softer target” for smuggling drugs into the country, a court has been told.
A conspiracy to ship up to an estimated $90 million of cocaine from Peru to Australia via Port Moresby, which was ultimately busted by authorities, has been detailed in a Queensland court.
It allegedly involved at least three men, who aimed to bring two shipments of up to 600kg of the drug into Australia through the Torres Strait in 2018.
They planned to take advantage of the high level of small boat traffic and close cultural ties in the region, the court was told.
Papua New Guinea national and former logistics worker Charles Wagambio, 38, pleaded guilty to trafficking and dealing with the proceeds of crime on Thursday.
He had the expertise and ability to deal corruptly with officials, which helped to traffic the drugs, the Queensland Supreme Court was told.
“It was seen that Papua New Guinea was a softer target in terms of its border security,” Crown prosecutor Ben Power said.
“Because of historical ties with the islands of the Torres Strait and Papua New Guinea proper there is considerable small boat traffic and the aim is then to exploit that.
“Co-accused Paul Smith and Jeffrey John Sagar are yet to face committal over alleged links to the trafficking, the court was told.
The court heard the case was unusual because no drugs made it into Australia.When Wagambio inspected a first shipment of 300kg, which was expected to come in containers of fruit products, he found that they were empty.
He sent messages to his co-accused, who concluded the drugs had probably been stolen somewhere in South America.
They decided to import another container of cocaine. However, the Peruvian national police arrested the criminal syndicate that included their contact, which resulted in the seizure of a tonne of cocaine.
The court was told it was planned that 300kg the seized cocaine would be imported into Australia via Port Moresby and Daru Island.
Wagambio’s ability to pay bribes to PNG customs officials was an aggravating feature in the case because the country is closely associated to Australia and has a public service significantly funded by Australian taxpayers, Mr Power told the court.
Wagambio was arrested after flying to Brisbane Airport in June 2018.The sentencing hearing has been adjourned to Monday.