Landowners deny ‘swamp ghost’ claim
Post Courier [ January 17, 2010 | Read Article Online ]
THE landowners from the Karaisa area, the home of the most famous war relic, the Swamp Ghost B-17 airplane wreck have denied receiving any money on the sale of the aeroplane.
The chief of the Jijiro clan, Ian Jijiroba said this in Popondetta after reading in the papers the export of the “Swamp Ghost” B-17 airplane wreck would take place this month. Mr Jijiroba said it would be illegal if the Government allowed the aeroplane to be exported. He said they visited the office of the Minister for Culture and Tourism Charles Abel last year, and the Minister was made aware of the landowners’ intention.
He said during a meeting the Minister was informed that if the landowners agreed to let the plane go, it would be for two reasons which would be based on the natural devastation in the area and the State must pay a penalty for the illegal deals and for cheating the people.
Mr Jojoga said because Minister Abel insisted for the plane to go on a similar note, landowners agreedon the conditions that $US100,000 be deposited into a Westpac Bank trust account and later transferred to the Narokobi Lawyers Trust account as per information gathered with any interest accumulated to be paid to them. He said to date no one knew whether the money was being kept with the Narokobi trust account after it was transferred from the Westpac trust account as initially claimed by the Government.
Minister Abel’s response in that meeting was very clear and as quoted by him, “All the money will go to the landowners to start-up a mini-museum in the province,” Mr Jojoga stated.
“While the landowners are waiting for the Minister’s promise, we are beginning to hear that the controversial figure and American businessman Alfred Hagan is on his way into the country to remove the “Swamp Ghost” B-17 airplane wreck, which could take place this month.
The Controversy erupted in 2006 when Mr Hagen salvaged the wreck, chopped it into pieces and transported it to Bismarck Shipping at Lae to await export.
The Public Accounts Committee investigation report that year determined Swamp Ghost’s salvage was illegal and for Mr Hagen return this month to PNG to take Swamp Ghost to the United States was in defiance of the PAC report.