Welcome on a guided tour of Port Moresby’s Chinese underworld

Clement Kaupa

From high stakes gambling to designer drugs, high profile prostitution and the import of counterfeit products, the PNG underworld is being ruled by persons from a certain Asian nationality.

Beyond the alluring neon splash of Port Moresby’s glitzy night-life exists a murky underworld of illegal high-stakes gambling, subtle bribery, designer drugs and high-profile prostitution. These are no longer rumours; a reliable source with inside knowledge confirmed these highly illicit activities to be happening with blatant disregard for the laws of the land.

High class prostitutes from Asia are a key part of the underworld scene

The source, who wished anonymity (for apparent reasons), claimed these activities are perpetrated by resident persons from a single Asian nationality.The source said the high-stakes gambling and use of designer drugs referred to by them as the “bean” (a derivative of highly addictive manufactured drug Ecstasy) are somewhat restricted for their personal amusement (mostly due to affordability rather than moral conscience) but “bribery” and “high-profile prostitution” involving imported professional sex-workers are masterfully concealed and marketed to an appreciating demand in Papua New Guinea for fast money and promiscuous sex.

The bribery component, according to the source, is ingeniously incorporated into the mechanism of PNG’s own brand of the notorious “Black Market Dinau Moni”; a highly lucrative street money-lending scheme that operates purely on trust and the need for discretion. But the former deflects from the latter’s exorbitant interest rates (40%-50%) and rigid repayment schedule (1-2 weeks), zeroing in on the trust and discretion aspects alone.

Monies loaned out by these people are interest-free with no conditions attached apart from a subtle line “pay me back when you can”. The real shocker drops in the amounts loaned-out. According to the source, cold-hard cash from anywhere between K2000 to K20,000 (even more) are known to exchange hands at the ease and speed it takes to make a phone call. It does not end there; the source said an individual can owe these people excessive amounts in additional loans at any one time.

And only an “exotic hostess” (imported prostitute) possesses the savvy to pop the cork on the celebratory ‘bottle of bubbly’ with that ‘exact’ measure of finesse to ease the cloying air of embarrassment and uneasiness every time a transaction transpires, always in inconspicuous locations, which is usually a posh air-conditioned backroom of a club or upmarket restaurant (hotel rooms are considered too obvious for their comfort).

A startling number of high profile nationals are already entangled in the sticky-sweet web spawned through subtlety and deception. Short of disclosing names, the source implied the majority of these persons to be in strategic positions at executive levels of leading public and private institutions. Thus, the much hyped “on the payroll” phrase does have merit after-all. The source said these persons borrow their way into dual servitude and are no longer serving the interests of Papua New Guinea alone.

And that is one facet of the operation. Counterfeit products is another. The source said fake products are circulating in bulk but ingenuously saturated among genuine items throughout Papua New Guinea. What you think is the authentic Reebok or Red Joe Jean or Pall Mall cigarette might actually be a copy-cat version. “You can never know for sure,” the source said. According to the source, this specific Asian grouping are ideally suited to accomplish this feat because; “They have multitudes of unregistered small scale back-alley factories highly specialised in counterfeiting back in their home country; And they have an excellent nation-wide retail network developed over the years that is proving very efficient in the distribution and merchandising of counterfeit goods like no other”.

The source told of an individual of that nationality who had financed the counterfeiting, shipment and distribution of Pall Mall cigarettes a while back. According to the source, the estimated street retail value of one 20-foot container of cigarettes is K4.5 – K5 million. The source said the person managed to ship and fully distribute five capacity containers before word leaked-out and his operation was terminated. He walked away with somewhere between K15 million and K20 million, give or take a couple of thousands in bribery expenses.

But contrary to rising sentiments today that international crime syndicates are already operating in the country, given further credibility by the recent spate of attempted assassinations and organised kidnappings, the source believes Papua New Guinea is not faced with that menace yet. According to the source these are isolated one-off crimes that are commissioned by individuals rather than an organised mob. But the source conceded that the possibility is there because a network is already in place.
“It is only a matter of time and opportunity,” the source said

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