An alleged multi-million international drug trafficking operation has been curiously linked to Orange as new details emerge.
(min cost $8)
Login or signup to continue reading
In a high-profile sting earlier this year police intercepted a covert 'black flight' allegedly attempting to smuggle vast quantities of meth from Papua New Guinea to Australia.
At least six men have been arrested. The incident has been tied to a "major transnational organised crime group" possibly conducting business from NSW.
Database searches reveal the dual-engine light aircraft used in the alleged crime remains registered to a company based in Orange.
On condition of anonymity an individual with direct knowledge of the business said its plane had been sold weeks prior but never reregistered by the new owners.
There is no evidence the Orange company has engaged in any wrongdoing. The CWD has chosen not to publish its identity.
A spokesperson for Australian Federal Police declined to comment when approached for further information. Investigations continue.
The case remains shrouded in mystery. Images circulating in PNG media suggest the aircraft was disguised with a fake registration number.
Official images circulated by Australian police have been converted to greyscale and photoshopped to obscure identifying features.
The AFP intercepted the 1969 Beechcraft Barron 95-b5 at an airstrip near Monto in Queensland in March 21, 2023 after months of covert surveillance. It was at the site to refuel.
It alleges the crew collected five duffle bags containing 52 kilograms of methamphetamine near Bulolo, Papua New Guinea. The drugs have an estimated street value of $15 million.
Transponders were then turned off and the plane flew at dangerously low altitudes to avoid radar on its route back to Australia. Encrypted phones were allegedly used to communicate.
Authorities describe planes that deploy this strategy or provided false flight logs to evade detection as "black flights."
The months-long AFP Operation Gepard investigation was supported by the NSW Police State Crime Command, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, and RPNGC.
Both pilots and three men allegedly providing ground support are before the courts. A Chinese national has also been arrested. If convicted, maximum penalties of life imprisonment are possible.
This is not the first alleged drug trafficking black flight bound for Australia. In 2020 a plane allegedly carrying 550kg of cocaine crashed during take off in PNG.
Know more? If you have information you'd like to share you can forward it anonymously to: William.firstname.lastname@example.org
Reading this on mobile web? Download our news app here. It's faster, easier to read and we'll send you alerts for breaking news as it happens.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.