Cover Up – Book Blogger’s Interview

For those of you who might be interested, I was recently interviewed by a book blogger, Sonya Alford, in the United Kingdom about my new book, a work of non fiction called Cover Up. She is also hosting a competition to win a free copy.

Here is the link:

Interview with Damien Comerford + Competition

Mystery Plane, Cash, Drugs And Maybe CIA 4 – Epilogue

I’ve written some blog posts in the recent past about what I consider to be a fascinating mystery. It’s the story of a ghost plane, that turned up in Australia, a significant quantity of illegal drugs and cash seized by New South Wales police, as well as an under the radar flight operation, that in all likelihood involved the American CIA.

It’s the story that keeps on giving. So many intriguing twists and turns. Here is part four. But first, some background to put the story in context.

At the heart of this tale is a plane, a US-registered Swearingen Merlin 3 twin turbo prop, that arrived illegally in Australia but no one knows how it got here.

But clearly someone knew quite a bit because the Australian Federal Police and the New South Wales Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad, raided the eight-seater private plane while it was parked on the tarmac at Illawarra airport, a tiny, regional hub south of Sydney. The day of the raid was a real cops and robbers type operation. The plane was surrounded by about 20 armed police.

A 43-year-old Wollongong pilot, Bernard Stevermuer, who is listed as the owner of the plane, was arrested and charged with being part of a criminal organisation and dealing with the proceeds of crime. He is currently on bail.

The News South Wales Police case is that a major international crime syndicate was using the airport to import guns and drugs for distribution throughout southwest Sydney. The syndicate was allegedly operated by two men, who police claim have links to a number of New South Wales outlaw motorcycle gangs. What their precise connection might be to Stevermuer has not been revealed. Normally, when police conduct raids of this type, it’s usually accompanied by a fair bit of bragging, about how law enforcement is cracking down on organised crime, but strangely, in this case, they’ve been conspicuous by their silence. Not one public word has been uttered since the raid.

Police clearly had Stevermuer under surveillance. They also claim to have documents which show that the syndicate commissioned Stevermuer to buy the plane in the United States for $US400,000 with the money provided by a mortgage company in Sydney. But as you will discover, the purchase was anything but straightforward and full of intrigue.

Police also allege that documents show Stevermuer, for some unexplained reason had access to large reserves of cash and was prepared to pay $A1.5 million to buy two aviation businesses based at Illawarra Airport in Australia.

Several aviation sources have confirmed that Stevermuer was in negotiation to buy the flight training organisation, NSW Air and another company, called the Aerial Patrol shark-spotting plane service.

Police allege these two aviation companies were to act as legitimate fronts in order to hide criminal activity. But when Stevermuer offered a $300,000 cash deposit, the seller became suspicious and the sale fell through. When Police arrested the Wollongong pilot, they discovered 36 kg of an illegal drug, which they now are refusing to name, but believed to be heroin, with a street value of $A9 million, as well as $A70,000 cash.

But then the story gets even more intriguing.

If you do a search of US Federal Aviation Administration ( FAA) records, you will discover, that an organisation called the Oregonian Aero Club, with an address listed in Wilmington, Delaware, owns the Swearingen Merlin 3 aircraft.

But the fact that this club has its registered office in Delaware, might be an extremely significant development. Delaware is one of the strangest American states in terms of corporate law, especially if you happen to be in the business of asset management.

Companies, incorporated in Delaware, enjoy similar freedom and secrecy to the clients of other highly secretive organisations like the Vatican Bank or financial institutions based in the Cayman Islands. Asset Management companies, which own aircraft and yachts, register them in Delaware as a way of minimising tax and personal liability and also because the assets are automatically registered as belonging to a trustee corporation rather than an individual, making it a great place to hide true ownership if that was your desire.

And according to FAA records it turns out that the person who is listed as a Director of the Oregonian Aero Club, which owns the mystery plane, is none other than Australian pilot Bernard Stevermuer, who has just been arrested by Australian police.

The papers list Stevermuer as the purchaser of the plane on behalf of Oregonian Aero Club. Nothing strictly illegal in that you might say. Except, why would an Australian pilot and skydiving instructor, bother to travel across the world to buy a 42-year-old plane?

There is nothing in the least exceptional about this model of aircraft apart from its age.

Even more unusual, Why would an Australian who doesn’t live in the United States, be listed as a Director of a fictitious American aviation club? None of this makes sense unless of course unless there was a darker purpose behind the deal.

The Oregonian Aero club has no headquarters, no web address, telephone numbers, aircraft (apart from this one 42 year old plane) or members. In fact none of the other aero clubs in the Oregon area have ever heard it.

And, as it turns out, the plane at the centre of this intrigue, the Swearingen Merlin 3 twin turbo prop aircraft, could best be described as a ghost plane. By that I mean there is no record, whatsoever, of it ever arriving in Australia.

In fact, the last known official record concerning this aircraft reveals that it flew into the Philippines on May 5, 2014, after a two-month journey from the United States. But the Swearingen Merlin 3 had been doing a lot of flying right up until the time it left for the Philippines. It flew for a couple of weeks from Punta Gorda in Florida via Missouri and Texas and then to California and finally Washington State.

Flight records indicate the plane left Seattle, Washington on the 30th of April 2014. It touched down at Cold Bay, Alaska, a village of 108 people, one shop, one hotel and an airport. The next day the aircraft flew to Honolulu and then the Marshall islands, a series of atolls in the Pacific Ocean. Next stop was the US airbase at Guam before arriving in the Philippines capital, Manila.

But what happened to the plane after that is a total mystery. It clearly entered Australia some way but what route it took and who was flying it is anyone’s guess. What is also apparent, whoever was flying this plane, took extraordinary steps to avoid detection. By that I mean entering Australia at one of its most remote and least habited geographic points, flying visually, without instruments, at low altitude, for long periods so it wouldn’t be detected by radar.

That would have taken the expertise and daring of an extremely skilled pilot.

The next record of contact between this plane, registered NH224HR, and a control tower, was at Coffs Harbour in northern New South Wales on the 27th of June 2014. The plane radioed in that it was bound for Illawarra airport. And that’s where it’s been ever since, on the tarmac, until the police raid.

But would this mystery be solved if we were able to trace the full ownership of this plane from the time in rolled off the assembly line?

As I already established in a recent blog post, the U.S. Forest Service was the first owner of the Swearingen Merlin 3 in the early 1970s. The Forest Service has a track record of an activity known in aviation circles as sheep dipping planes on behalf of the CIA. You sheep dip a plane when you conceal or disguise its true owner. Sheep dipping explains how some Forest Service owned aircraft were discovered in exotic locations like Colombia and Mexico being used by drug cartels instead of fighting forest fires.

Are there any significant clues in who might have owned by plane, before it was sold to the Oregonian Aero Club? Again a search of U.S. FAA records reveals the previous owner was a company called Sterling Strategic Consulting LLC based in Salem Oregon. Nothing unusual in that you might think except that Sterling Strategic Consulting LLC is owned by a dentist based in Colombia, Missouri on the other side of the United States. He bought the Swearingen Merlin 3 in 2011 and sold it to the Oregonian Aero Club a few months later. There is no suggestion or implication that any of these transactions were illegal. But they were definitely unusual and as per usual we end up with more questions than answers.

There is one final interesting element to this story that invites further scrutiny. The fact that this plane began its mysterious odyssey across the world, from Charlotte County Airport at Punta Gorda in Florida, could be an indication of its true origin and purpose. Punta Gorda, would have to be one of the more unusual locations in the United States and it’s all to do with its history. Punta Gorda could easily and humorously be re-named Spooksville. The founding fathers of Punta Gorda happen to be a pair of CIA spooks, Bud Cole and Al Johns, who turned a vast tidal flat into upmarket home sites complete with canals. As a CIA agent, Al Johns, was fairly gung-ho if you’ll pardon the pun. The CIA posted him to the East China Sea in the 1950s where his job was to supply pirates for junks used to attack Communist Chinese shipping. In fact, Punta Gorda seems to act as a magnet for CIA agents past and present. Porter Goss, former CIA Director during the Presidency of George W. Bush, was a long time resident of Punta Gorda and served as a local Mayor.

With that kind of history of CIA connectivity, it’s little wonder that Punta Gorda’s Charlotte County Airport has been home to some interesting characters and even more interesting allegations. For example at least one Congressional committee heard allegations that the airport was used to transport arms to the Contras in Nicaragua and to smuggle drugs, principally cocaine. Of course the allegations were never proven and no one was ever prosecuted or served jail time.

And there’s the case of  the 23 helicopters that mysteriously disappeared from Charlotte County Airport. One of the helicopters was later discovered in Chile of all places. No one can explain how they managed to disappear, how they managed to leave the United States or who was responsible but the local Sheriff has suggested publicly that he has a pretty good idea even if he’s not saying.

Maybe it isn’t so surprising that a ghost plane that flew out of a mysterious place like Punta Gorda would end up thousands of miles away in Australia, linked to drugs and organised crime and with no record of it ever entering Australia in the first place.

You would hope that the New South Wales Police would be interested in all of this information. It is clearly going to take their raid on the plane in a completely new direction and an international one at that. They have a lot of questions they need to ask. Who knows what they might uncover. But if they have any such plans they are not saying. Maybe their silence speaks volumes.

If I was a betting man, which I am not, I would wager that the mystery of the Swearingen Merlin 3 aircraft and how and why it ended up on the tarmac at Illawarra Airport is destined to remain exactly that. A mystery. And if the American CIA is involved you can take that as a given.

Mystery Plane, Cash, Drugs And Maybe CIA 3

Some weeks ago I started a blog post about a mystery plane that turned up in Australia, a significant quantity of illegal drugs, a large amount of cash and likely CIA involvement.

I’ve already written two blog posts on this topic. Here is part three. But first a little background as a recap.

The plane, a US-registered Swearingen Merlin 3 twin turbo prop, arrived illegally in Australia but no one knows how.

But clearly someone knew something because the Australian Federal Police and the New South Wales Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad, raided the eight-seater private plane while it was parked on the tarmac at Illawarra airport, a tiny, regional hub south of Sydney. The day of the raid was real cops and robbers stuff. About 20 police surrounded the plane. The local newspaper was tipped off and took plenty of pictures.

A 43-year-old Wollongong pilot, Bernard Stevermuer, listed as the owner of the plane, was arrested and charged with being part of a criminal organisation and dealing with the proceeds of crime. He is currently on bail.

Police allege a major international crime syndicate was using the airport to import guns and drugs for distribution throughout southwest Sydney. The syndicate was allegedly operated by two other men, who police claim have links to a number of New South Wales outlaw motorcycle gangs. What their precise connection might be to Stevermuer has not been revealed.

Police obviously had Stevermuer under surveillance. They claim to have documents which show that the syndicate commissioned Stevermuer to buy the plane in the United States for $US400,000 provided by a mortgage company in Sydney. But as you will discover, the purchase was very complicated and full of intrigue.

Police also allege that documents show Stevermuer, mysteriously had access to a large amount of cash and was prepared to pay $A1.5 million to buy two aviation businesses.

Several aviation sources say Stevermuer was in negotiation to buy the flight training organisation, NSW Air and another company,the Aerial Patrol shark-spotting plane service.

Both businesses were based at Illawarra airport.

Police allege these two aviation companies were designed to act as legitimate fronts to hide criminal activities. But when Stevermuer offered a $300,000 cash deposit, the seller became suspicious and the sale fell through. When Police arrested the Wollongong pilot they discovered 36 kg of an illegal drug, which they are refusing to name, but believed to be heroin, with a street value of $A9 million, as well as $70,000 cash.

But then the story gets even murkier.

If you do a search of US Federal Aviation Administration ( FAA) records, you will discover, that an organisation called the Oregonian Aero Club, with an address listed in Wilmington, Delaware, owned the Swearingen Merlin 3 aircraft.

But the fact that this club has its registered office in Delaware might be an extremely significant clue. Delaware is one of the strangest states in the United States, in terms of corporate law specifically if you happen to be in the business of asset management.

Companies, incorporated in Delaware, enjoy freedom and secrecy similar to the clients of other highly secretive organisations like the Vatican Bank or financial institutions in the Cayman Islands. Asset Management companies with aircraft and yachts, register in Delaware as a way of minimising tax and personal liability and also because the assets are automatically registered as belonging to a trustee corporation rather than an individual, making it a great place to hide true ownership if that was your desire.

And according to FAA records it turns out that the person who is listed as a Director of the Oregonian Aero Club which owns the mystery plane is none other than Australian pilot Bernard Stevermuer, who has just been arrested by Australian police.

The papers list Stevermuer as the purchaser of the plane on behalf of Oregonian Aero Club. Nothing strictly illegal with that you might say. Except, why would an Australian pilot and skydiving instructor, travel across the world to buy a 42-year-old plane?

There is nothing in the least exceptional about this model of aircraft.

Even more unusual, Why an Australian, who doesn’t live in the United States, is listed as a Director of a fictitious American aviation club? None of this makes sense unless there was another agenda being followed.

The Oregonian Aero club has no headquarters, no web address, telephone numbers, aircraft (apart from this one 42 year old plane) or members. In fact none of the other aero clubs in the Oregon area know anything about it.

And, it turns out the plane at the centre of all of this intrigue, a Swearingen Merlin 3 twin turbo prop aircraft, could best be described as a stealth plane.

By that I mean there is no record, whatsoever, of it arriving in Australia.

In fact, the last known official record concerning this aircraft shows it flew into the Philippines on May 5, 2014, after a two-month journey from the United States. But the Swearingen Merlin 3 had been pretty busy right up until the time it left for the Philippines. It flew for a couple of weeks from Punta Gorda in Florida via Missouri and Texas and then to California and finally Washington State.

Flight records indicate the plane left Seattle, Washington on the 30th of April 2014. It touched down at Cold Bay, Alaska, a village of 108 people, one shop, one hotel and an airport. The next day the aircraft flew to Honolulu and then the Marshall islands, a series of atolls in the Pacific Ocean. Next stop was the US airbase at Guam before arriving in the Philippines capital, Manila.

But what happened to the plane after that is a total mystery. It clearly entered Australia some way but what route it took and who was flying it is anyone’s guess. But, what is also apparent, whoever was flying this plane, took extraordinary steps to avoid detection. By that I mean entering Australia at one of its most remote and least habited geographic points, flying visually, without instruments, at low altitude, for long periods so it wouldn’t be detected by radar.

That would have taken the expertise and daring of an extremely skilled pilot.

The next record of contact between this plane, registered NH224HR, and a control tower, was at Coffs Harbour in northern New South Wales on the 27th of June 2014. The plane radioed in that it was bound for Illawarra airport. And that’s where it’s been ever since, on the tarmac, until the police raid.

Let’s dig a little deeper into the background of this particular Swearingen Merlin 3 aircraft.

When it rolled off the assembly line in 1973, her first owner was listed as the U.S. Forest Service in Boise Idaho. Now at first glance that may seem innocuous but given the history of aircraft owned by the United States Forest Service it is a tell tale sign that this plane was destined to serve a sinister purpose.

Here’s why.

In the 1960s,70s and 80s, the United States Forest Service acquired a variety of aircraft with varying roles ostensibly to assist it with significantly improving aerial fire fighting capability. The USFS traditionally relied on contracting private companies to provide large air tankers for fighting forest fires. Most of these air tankers were retired World War II and Korean War-era transports, bombers, and maritime patrol aircraft.

There was a compelling reason for using these kinds of aircraft. They were relatively inexpensive to obtain and were capable of carrying the large loads of fire retardant needed to make their use cost effective.

In the 1980s, the bulk of the Forest Service’s air tanker fleet consisted of C-119 Flying Boxcars obtained from the military. But after concerns about safety, the aging C-119s were grounded in 1987.

It meant the available air tanker fleet was suddenly and substantially diminished, and the Forest Service needed additional aircraft for firefighting operations.

However, the plan they came up with to achieve this objective only succeeded in handing over ex military planes to private contractors who ended up using some of them for drug running instead of firefighting.

The aircraft were ex military surplus and only supposed to be used for contract firefighting with ownership retained by the United States Government. But under a new arrangement, the aircraft were sold with direct ownership transferred to private contractors who of course, could then do what they liked with them. This was both irregular and illegal. As you might expect under a deal like this some of the aircraft did not end up having anything to do with firefighting.

But here is yet another curious twist in the story with a uniquely Australian connection. Two C-130 aircraft, supplied to the U.S Forest Service for fire fighting duties by the Australian Air Force were subsequently discovered to have been spirited out of the United States and used for illegal activity in South America and Mexico.

We might never have known of these shenanigans were it not for a whistleblower called Gary Eitel who describes himself as a former CIA pilot, aviation consultant and an aircraft broker. Eitel had clients who were interested in obtaining C-130s but his clients had never been part of the original Forest Service arrangement with private contractors.

Consequently Eitel was told no aircraft were available for purchase.

But Eitel suspected he was being given a load of baloney.

And he was right.

He started doing some digging through Freedom of Information. What he uncovered was a scandal. Not only was the whole operation illegal, Eitel claims he inadvertently stepped into a covert CIA operation. Eitel says he discovered that the program was being used to channel military aircraft into the hands of private companies who, in turn, were contracting their services to the CIA using the Forest Service as a benign middle man for the transfer. This activity is known colloquially as sheep dipping. You sheep dip a plane when you conceal the source or true ownership.

In a Congressional committee hearing in 1976, the CIA’s general counsel admitted that the agency regularly used the United States Forest Service as cover for its covert operations. The CIA even shared an address with the Forest Service’s Air Research and Development unit in Alexandria, Virginia.

Which brings us back to the Swearingen Merlin 3 aircraft owned at one time by the U.S. Forest Service. Is there direct evidence linking this plane to the CIA? The answer is no. But on the balance of probabilities the circumstantial evidence points in that direction based on past history rather than away from it in my view.

Of course the question needs to be asked, if all of these aircraft were being diverted from what was originally their main purpose to boost the Forest Service’s capability to fight wild fires did that have a negative impact on fighting forest fires? The answer is both tragic and emphatic. In August 1994, 14 firefighters died while fighting a forest fire in Colorado.

The U.S. Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration subsequently cited the Forest Service for “inadequate use of aviation resources.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration wanted to know what had happened to all of the Forest Service’s aircraft. What indeed.

In part four of this series, we will examine who owned the Swearingen Merlin 3 plane before the Oregonian Aero Club and the plane’s highly suspicious Florida connection.

Mystery Plane, Cash, Drugs And Maybe CIA 2

Some time ago, I wrote a blog post called: The Story Of The Mystery Plane, The Cash, The Drugs And Maybe The CIA. Well, hold on to your hats because here is part two of that story. But firstly, a brief recap:

A few weeks ago, members of the Australian Federal Police and the New South Wales Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad, conducted a raid on an eight seat private plane, a US-registered Swearingen Merlin 3 twin turbo prop, parked on the tarmac at Illawarra airport, a tiny, regional hub south of Sydney. It was real cops and robbers stuff. About 20 police in vehicles, literally surrounded the plane. The local newspaper was tipped off and took plenty of pictures.

A 43-year-old Wollongong pilot, Bernard Stevermuer, was arrested and charged with being part of a criminal organisation and dealing with the proceeds of crime. He is currently on bail.

Police allege a major international crime syndicate was using the airport to import guns and drugs for distribution throughout southwest Sydney. The syndicate was allegedly operated by two other men, who police claim have links to a number of New South Wales outlaw motorcycle gangs.

Police claim to have documents which show that the syndicate commissioned Stevermuer to buy the plane in the United States for $US400,000 provided by a mortgage company in Sydney. But as you will discover, the purchase was very complicated and full of intrigue. Police also allege that documents show Stevermuer, had mysteriously come into a lot of money and was prepared to pay $A1.5 million to buy two business at Illawarra Regional Airport. Several aviation sources say Stevermuer was in negotiations to buy the flight training organization, NSW Air and the Aerial Patrol shark-spotting plane service, both based at the airport.

Police allege these businesses were designed to act as a legitimate front to hide criminal activities. But when Stevermuer offered a $300,000 cash deposit, the vendor became suspicious and the sale fell through. When Police arrested the Wollongong pilot they discovered 36 kg of an illegal drug, which they are refusing to name, but believed to be heroin, with a street value of $A9 million, as well as $70,000 cash.

But then the story gets even murkier.

If you do a search of US Federal Aviation Administration records, you will discover, that an organisation called the Oregonian Aero Club, with an address listed in Wilmington, Delaware, previously owned the Swearingen Merlin 3 aircraft.

But the fact that this club has a registered office in Delaware might be an extremely significant clue. Delaware is one of the strangest states in the United States, in terms of corporate law specifically if you happen to be in the business of asset management.

Those types of companies, incorporated in Delaware, enjoy freedom and secrecy similar to clients of other highly secretive organisations like the Vatican Bank or financial institutions in the Cayman Islands. Asset Management companies with aircraft and yachts, advertise registration in Delaware as a way of minimising tax and personal liability because the assets are automatically registered as belonging to a trustee corporation rather than an individual. Making it a great place to hide if that was your wish.

And it turns out that the person who bought the plane on behalf of Oregonian was none other than Australian pilot Bernard Stevermuer, who has just been arrested by Australian police.

The papers list Stevermuer as the purchaser of the plane acting for an Aero Club that doesn’t exist. Nothing wrong with that you might say. Except, why would an Australian pilot and skydiving instructor, who doesn’t live in the United States, travel across the world to buy a 42-year-old plane? There is nothing in the least exceptional about this model of aircraft. Even more unusual, Why would a club want to sell its only aircraft, two weeks after it had purchased it listing an Australian as the buyer? None of this makes sense unless there was another agenda being followed.

Stevermuer wasn’t purchasing from a broker that buys and sells aircraft all the time. The Oregonian Aero club has no headquarters, web address, telephone numbers, aircraft (apart from this one 42 year old plane) or members. In fact none of the other aero clubs in the area know anything about it.

It turns out the plane at the centre of all of this intrigue is a Swearingen Merlin 3 twin turbo prop. It is best described as a stealth plane. By that I mean there is no record, whatsoever, of it arriving in Australia. In fact the last known official record concerning this aircraft shows it flew into the Philippines on May 5, 2014, after a two-month journey from the United States. But the Swearingen Merlin 3 had been pretty busy up until the time it left for the Philippines. It flew for a couple of weeks from Punta Gorda in Florida via Missouri and Texas and then to California and finally Washington State.

Flight records indicate the plane left Seattle, Washington on the 30th of April 2014. It touched down at Cold Bay, Alaska, a village of 108 people, one shop, one hotel and an airport. The next day the aircraft flew to Honolulu and then the Marshall islands, a series of atolls in the Pacific Ocean. Next stop was the US airbase at Guam before arriving in the Philippines capital, Manila.

But what happened to the plane after that is a total mystery. It clearly entered Australia some way but what route it took is anyone’s guess. What is also apparent, whoever was flying this plane, took extraordinary steps to remain undetected. By that I mean entering Australia at one of its most remote and least habited geographic points, flying visually, without instruments, at low altitude, for long periods under radar.

That would have taken the expertise and daring of an extremely skilled pilot.

The next record of contact between this plane, registered NH224HR, and a control tower, was at Coffs Harbour in northern New South Wales on the 27th of June 2014. The plane radioed in that it was bound for Illawarra airport. And that’s where it’s been ever since, on the tarmac, until the police raid.

The next obvious question is who flew the plane illegally into Australia? At this point in time we don’t know the answer to that question. So let’s talk about what we do know. Sometimes fact can be way stranger than fiction.

The contract to ferry the Swearingen Merlin 3 from the United States to the Philippines was undertaken by an Australian company called Snow Goose International. Snow Goose was engaged by the Oregonian Aero Club, which of course exists in name only. So it might be fair to assume that Snow Goose might know the principals behind Oregonian. If they do, they are not saying. In fact Snow Goose released a statement saying their job was to ferry the plane to the Philippines, which they did, At all times the flights were planned and approved by the appropriate authorities. Communication was maintained at all times by High Frequency Radio in accordance with international requirements. Snow Goose has no knowledge of what happened to the plane after they ferried it to the Philippines nor does it have any knowledge of how it ended up illegally in Australia.

Snow Goose is a very interesting company. It’s Director and Chief Pilot is David Baddams, a Member Of The British Empire. On the company website, he is listed as an ex-Navy fighter pilot with 40 years flying experience on many aircraft types including the Sea Harrier, BAE Hawk and the Douglas A4 Skyhawk. Since leaving the Navy in 1999, Baddams has remained closely involved in aviation as the business development manager of a military flying training school, a highly experienced flying instructor, an aircraft salesman and as the Chief Pilot and director of an airborne surveillance company.  He has many years and many hours experience on numerous aircraft.

I am certainly not inferring or suggesting that David Baddams had anything whatsoever to do with ferrying the Swearingen from the Philippines to Australia. There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest or infer he was involved. Nor is there any evidence to suggest or infer that he was involved in anything illegal.

But there is also no denying that he had the flying expertise and the skill set to undertake the most perilous of flying journeys in a small plane for example, from the United States to the Philippines. Snow Goose International regularly posted photographic updates of the Swearingen ferrying job to the Philippines on its company Facebook page. A photo posted by Snow Goose International on April 30 showed Baddams and a man seated beside him the cockpit of a plane, with the caption: “It’s Bernie!!! He is back!” The man sitting next to him is Bernie Stevermuer.

Another photo, posted on June 13, was captioned: “Here she comes! On the pan at Clark about to continue on her journey with the owner!” The caption is referring to the tarmac at Clark Air Force base in the Philippines.

On the same date, Baddams commented: “Here she comes to Australia! It’s N224HR, the one we brought across the Pacific!”

But how the Swearingen Merlin 3 ended up in Australia and who flew her from the Philippines remains an intriguing mystery.

In part three of this series, we’ll be examining how the CIA might be linked to this case, its practice of “sheep dipping” planes and how the Swearingen that ended up in Australia, might have been originally owned by the American spy agency.