THERE were suspicions about an NDMO aid theft racket back in 2015, but requests for a police investigation then never happened, said government insiders.
An Independent Online investigation has also revealed that the organised theft may also involve the theft of donated goods to international aid agencies based in Port Vila.
It is not yet known whether staff of these agencies were part of the theft racket as well but NDMO insiders told the Independent Online that it was likely that people beyond the NDMO were involved.
The Independent Online can also reveal that it was only after this police operation began that a fence was erected around the NDMO storage area and security patrols were introduced at night.
Police are tight-lipped about the investigation, only saying that it is ongoing.
“There have been several arrests of senior NDMO officers and more arrests are likely as police recover more stolen aid goods and widen their investigation,” said a Police source.
“The items stolen that have been recovered include a wide range of goods sent to a country after a disaster including everything from food to tarpaulins and tents.
“It would appear that some of these items were consumed or kept for personal use but a percentage are likely to have been sold.”
An NDMO insider told the Independent Online that following a disaster like cyclone Pam, people or groups would request aid in writing and all requests would go across the desk of the NDMO Director for approval.
“As you can imagine after a disaster the size of Pam there would have been hundreds of requests for aid and at times things were pretty chaotic and obviously things were missed.
“The Ambae operation was clearly much smaller but it happened in a much shorter space of time and again, it’s not hard to imagine that items would have gone missing in the rush to get things done quickly.”