5 Sep 2005

British man wanted by PNG police seen with rebels in Bougainville capital

6:51 am on 5 September 2005

A British man wanted by police in the Papua New Guinea province of Bougainville has been sighted in the provincial capital, Buka, with a heavy rebel guard.

James Nesbitt is wanted for questioning over an illegal entry flight and because his Papua New Guinea visa may have expired.

It's been a year since Mr Nesbitt and an Australian, Jeff Richards, flew into the disused airstrip at Aropa near the Panguna mine.

The pair were said to have been invited by the rebel leader, Francis Ona, who has since died, with an unconfirmed cause of death stated as malaria.

The two men have been living in the Panguna area, gaining the trust and support of the rebel Me'ekamui government.

But police in Buka don't know their objective or their position in the current structure of the rebel movement.

For the past year the two expatriates have been linked to suspected arms-smuggling and an investment scam.