A plane crashed while trying to fly to Australia because it was overloaded with at least £43m worth of cocaine, according to police.
The Cessna aircraft came down shortly after ascending from a remote airstrip on the south coast of Papua New Guinea last Sunday.
It was found abandoned and empty but officials recovered 28 bags of drugs weighing a total of 500kg at a different location on the island.
Australian Federal Police (AFP) declared on Saturday they had arrested five suspected drug traffickers with alleged links to Italian organised crime. They face life imprisonment if convicted.
The pilot, also Australian, was detained and charged with an immigration offence after handing himself into the embassy in Papua New Guinea.
Officials betold the attempt to smuggle the cocaine into Australia amid the coronavirus pandemic as “brazen”.
AFP Deputy Commissioner Investigations Ian McCartney said, “With current interstate travel restrictions in place due to COVID-19, the attempt to import illicit drugs into Australia shows how opportunistic and greedy organised crime can be.”
“Australian law enforcement remains obligated to working collectively to protect Australia, which is especially important now, due to the ongoing impact of the crisis on the community.”
It is reported the light aircraft flew at an altitude of only 3000 feet in an effort to abstain radar detection.
After collecting the drugs, it crashed while attempting to ascending from an area norther of Port Moresby that afternoon.