Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions

PNG national gets five years for people smuggling and four years for drug and drug precursor importation

Date of Publication: 
23 November 2018

On 19 November 2018, Papua New Guinean national Koloney Bama, 52, was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment in the Cairns Supreme Court for multiple counts of trying to smuggle drugs and the drug precursor ephedrine into Australia. He was also sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for one count of people smuggling.

On 11 November 2015, Bama tried to smuggle what he thought was 500ml ephedrine liquid, 28 grams of cocaine powder, and 10 kilograms of cannabis by dinghy from Papua New Guinea (PNG) to Bamaga—on the tip of Cape York in Queensland—via the Torres Straits.

But not long after entering Australian waters, Bama’s outboard motor started playing up and he couldn’t fix it. After numerous phone calls to his co-conspirator back in PNG—an Australian called Aniba—Bama rang 000 asking for help.

During the call, BAMA told the 000 operator that he was on a ‘drug run’ and had 12 kilograms of marijuana with him in the boat. He said he was looking for a market for his drugs and that Customs knew he was a drug runner and would know where he was.

Shortly after making the phone call, Bama was able to restart the outboard motor and returned to PNG. On the way he threw the ephedrine and cannabis overboard and buried the cocaine on an island to prevent being caught with the drugs by police.

Bama was unaware that his phone calls had been intercepted as part of a 2015 operation between the Queensland Police and the Australian Federal Police, investigating the supply of drugs in the Cape York area. 

Between 1–11 March 2016, lawfully intercepted phone calls revealed that Aniba and Bama were communicating with another PNG national named ‘Joe’. Joe said he had 200kg of cannabis he wanted to exchange for firearms and cash. The plan was for Bama and Joe to smuggle the drugs from PNG to Bamaga where they would sell them, then use the cash to buy firearms. The deal never eventuated.

On 19 August 2017, Bama smuggled six Chinese nationals on a 14-foot dinghy from PNG to Saibai Island on the northern tip of Queensland, close to PNG. When Bama was arrested on 22 August, he said the Chinese had come from the Indonesian island of Merauke and that the plan had been to take them to Bamaga.

The six Chinese nationals were detained by officers from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, and Australian Defence Force, between 20–21 August.

Charges and sentence:

Bama was charged with:

  • One count of attempting to import a marketable quantity of border-controlled precursor, ephedrine, contrary to section 11.1 and 307.12 Criminal Code Cth.
  • One count of attempting to import a marketable quantity of border-controlled drug, cocaine, contrary to section 11.1 and 307.2 of the Criminal Code (Cth).
  • One count of attempting to import a border-controlled drug, cannabis, contrary to section 11.1 and 307.3 Criminal Code Cth.
  • One count of conspiring to import a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug, cannabis, contrary to section 11.5 and 307.1 of the Criminal Code (Cth).
  • One count of aggravated people smuggling (at least 5 people) contrary to section 233C of the Migration Act 1958 (Cth).

Bama was sentenced for the drug/precursor importation offences and the people smuggling offence to a total effective sentence of 6 years’ imprisonment, with a non-parole period of 3.5 years.

CDPP Media contact: communications@cdpp.gov.au or 02 6206 5708