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Plans to Steal P-38H Lightning 42-66538 Foiled
March 2002

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.

Western Warbirds Pty Ltd denies any involvement in this illegal recovery.

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