SYDNEY - Recently an Indonesian national was convicted of attempting to smuggle into Australia a large quantity of cough medicine.
The reason authorities were interested in this product was due to the fact that two of its key ingredients - ephedrine and pseudoephedrine - are also components, or precursors, for the dangerous drug, ICE.
In fact until authorities woke up to this relationship, addicts were purchasing numerous bottles of cough medicine and extracting either of the two precursors to satisfy their addiction.
This recent case reminded me of something similar which occurred in Papua New Guinea several years ago.
PNG, along with other South Pacific nations, has been a beneficiary but also a victim of globalisation. Trade, tourism and more exposure to the world have resulted in increased wealth.
On the downside, PNG and other developing nations have come to the attention of transnational criminal elements, particularly smugglers.
This is due to several factors, many of which are beyond the capacity of these nations to control including proximity to major markets for illegal substances, porous borders as well as understaffed and ill-equipped border surveillance.
These and other factors are compounded by the spectre of corruption and the vast profits to be made by smugglers.
The sharing of a land border with Indonesia, a major hub for smugglers, makes PNG’s task even more difficult.
A recent Indonesian case bears similarity to an attempt by two Asian men who lobbed into Port Moresby some years ago and sought permission to establish a cough medicine factory.
Using a PNG citizen as a front person, permission from the authorities was duly obtained. Immediately the import licence was issued, an order placed to import two large shipments of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine.
Fortunately customs and other officials in PNG were advised by an overseas agency that the amount of drugs ordered would be sufficient to produce enough cough medicine for all of the Pacific and Australia for the next two decades.
The project was quickly cancelled, no factory was ever established and the two principals hurriedly left the country.
It was clearly an operation to obtain illegal drugs used in the production of ICE and then ship them, probably to Australia, using PNG as a conduit.
This case occurred some years ago but there’s no reason to believe smugglers will not try something similar again in PNG.