A Melbourne man employed by drug mafia to drive a truck from Melbourne to Mareeba airport in Far North Queensland in 2020 to pick up a load of cocaine was found not guilty by a jury in the Brisbane Supreme Court on Friday.
Osman E-Houli on leaving the courthouse exclaimed, “Glory be to God” saying his faith had helped him get through the trial.
He told the court he did not know he was being sent to pick up drugs.
On July 26, 2020 police had been watching the operation unfold by tracking a plane flying from Mareeba to PNG which was operating under the radar, to pick up a load of cocaine then return.
Federal police alleged the controversial drug deal went wrong when the load of coke shifted in the Cessna 402 on take off, causing pilot David Cutmore to make a crash landing on a disused airstrip at LeaLea near Port Moresby from where he took off..
Our resident PNG correspondent said at the time of the incident Port Moresby police had assisted with loading the coke and refuelling the plane, a claim not ever mentioned by Australian Federal Police.
The correspondent also said at the time, she was given information a yacht with Italian registration had unloaded a load of coke on the northern shores of the PNG coastline and was transported overland by police to Port Moresby.
Furthermore, initial media reports in Queensland when the drug ring mules had been arrested near Mareeba in July 2020 claimed there was one tonne of coke onboard the aircraft but subsequent, more recent reports mentioned only 400 kg.
The drug ring had been under surveillance for quite some time by AFP using phone and internet intercepts. It is probable this is from where the initial reports of one tonne of coke had originated.
A Cessna 402C is capable of carrying one tonne of cargo according to aviation advice at the time.
An investigation into cargo carrying capacity of light aircraft revealed some disconcerting facts about just how much coke was on the plane and how much was retrieved by authorities.
A senior, retired RAAF pilot with years of experience in cargo aircraft said if the alleged load of 400 kg in plastic bags and some crates had partially shifted towards the rear of the fuselage on takeoff the experienced pilot should have been able to keep control of the aircraft.
In the event of a much larger load doing the same thing, the source said he would have lost control and would have to make a forced landing.
He did, and the pilot, from Victoria, received minor injuries then was later detained by police.
Police still at the strip when the plane crashed, allegedly, quickly tried to burn the aircraft to get rid of the evidence but not before a Hilux ute load of coke was taken away, to a carpark of a plush hotel according to our correspondent at the time.
A Hilux 4WD ute has a one tonne payload but in this case it seems about 600 kg disappeared which easily could have been removed in the vehicle.
In the picture we published at the time an unknown person uncovered the coke in a ute in a hotel parking lot.
From the CN story re-published June 1, 2022, our correspondent wrote:
“They (police) were there when it (crash) happened. Four Boroko Fishing Club members were at Lealea packing up ready to leave when it happened. They were held at gunpoint by armed police for just on an hour and prevented from “rendering assistance” and/or leaving the boat ramp.
“Still visible were the rest of the (Moresby) police doing their best to set fire to the plane wreckage and the cargo. In this they largely succeeded, particularly the cargo, of which we are told nothing remained intact. There was, and still is no sign of the pilot but blood stains on the plane’s steering wheel/instrument panel would indicate he must have got a nasty bump on the head on impact – maybe those helpful villagers are helping out again?!”
We have been unable to contact our correspondent. Why did her police sources tell her the plane and cargo were burnt when the photo shows the aircraft still intact?
The cover story she was given by PNG police contacts alleged the plane and cargo were burnt but somehow the AFP and Moresby police recovered 400 kg according to Australian media reports. In evidence presented to the Waigani National Court where Cutmore appeared on October 31, 2022, it was alleged 611 kg of coke was recovered.
Who got the remaining 600 or 400 kg from the intact plane? -contributed