We have learned from a trusted source in Papua New Guinea
of the facts behind the attempted illegal export of a P-38H Lightning 42-66538 from near Arufi, in the
Fly River Delta. In March 2002, the booms and wings were seized
at Lae, marked for export to Australia. They will now
be returned to the control of the PNG Museum.
A PNG National, who assisted
with the removal of the components from Arufi to Lae, has refused to
name the Australian for whom he worked, although an Australian citizen.
Quite incredibly, the thief, when caught at Lae, asked curator of the
PNG Museum, Seneah Greh to allow him to continue with the salvage otherwise
he would not get paid by his boss in Australia.
It is now believed by the PNG authorities that the
mastermind behind the theft was Melbourne businessman who shipped the
components to Lae so that he could claim they were dug up from an aircraft
burial ground at Finschhafen. The diversionary tactic did not work however,
and the PNG Minister for Culture, Sir Pita Lus, has been considerably
embarrassed by the incident. With an election in PNG coming up in mid
July this year, Lus wants the matter kept quiet, as he was duped into
believing that a legal export permit had been obtained. The combined
forces of Lus, furious at having been duped, and the PNG Museum will hopefully
prevent further recoveries of this type from Papuan New Guinea.
Warbirds Pty Ltd denies any involvement in this illegal