Police seized nearly five tons of methamphetamine in Fiji, equivalent to more than $2 billion in Fijian dollars (approximately $886.2 million USD). The first Jan. 14 raid resulted in seizure of more than three tons of meth at a warehouse on the western side of Fiji’s main island near the country’s main international airport, according to an OCCRP report.
The second raid took place Jan. 20, with Fiji’s public prosecutor sanctioning charges against 13 people in connection to the raids, RNZ reports. Those accused have been charged with unlawful possession of illicit drugs, according to a statement from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP).
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“Of the 13 accused persons, two are also charged with unlawful importation of illicit drugs. It is alleged that the accused persons without lawful authority, facilitated the importation and were found in possession of 4.8 tonnes of methamphetamines, an illicit drug, the statement says.
The ODPP also said that three of the 13 suspects were also charged with possession of property suspected of being proceeds of crime.
“It is alleged that the three accused persons were found in possession of cash (local and overseas currency) suspected of being proceeds of crime,” the statement said.
One of the 13, Justin Ho, was previously charged for exporting 2015.7 grams of cocaine from Sydney in 2018 while working as a flight attendant for Fiji Airways. Ho, and the other suspect, ended up walking free after the drugs went missing from the Namaka Police Station and the ODPP filed to discontinue proceedings.
A Fijian police officer was also charged in relation to the incident, after allegedly scooping up what was believed to be crystal meth powder from the first drug bust. The officer also allegedly fled the scene on Jan. 14 and was apprehended two days later.
An Ongoing Investigation
A Fiji court proceeded to grant bail to the 13 people charged after questioning and holding them in custody for 48 hours per country law. They are still under a curfew and must appear at the Lautoka High Court on Friday.
Fiji Police are now working with their nearby counterparts, like the Australian Federal Police and the Pacific Transnational Crime and Coordination Centre, and expect to make additional arrests.
According to Fiji Police Assistant Police Commissioner Mesake Waqa, the drugs arrived in Fiji in late December and the country was “being used as a transit point and that the methamphetamine was destined for a foreign market.” Waqa also said that the exchange of the meth shipment was believed to have been made outside of the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone, and the packages were delivered through a barge.
“The Fiji Police Force will not be making further comments on the ongoing investigation until major developments are made,” Waqa said.
Fiji Leaders Unite Against Drugs
According to the Fiji Sun, three chiefs — Tui Nadi Ratu Vuniyani Navuniuci, Tui Sabeto Ratu Viliame Mataitoga and Tui Nawaka Ratu Joeli Naevo — have also united to address the issue and naming their concern about drugs in the country.
It’s looking as though this incident could ignite a War on Drugs in the region, as entities like the Nadi Chamber of Commerce and Nadi Town Council also urged for swift action to address what they called a “serious and worrying issue.”
Dr. Ram Raju, president of the Nadi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that these drug busts were staggering and that Fiji is vulnerable acting as a middle country for illegal drug trade. Raju similarly called for major, sweeping measures, even suggesting that Fiji be deemed as “smoke and drug free.”
Pio Tikoduadua, Fijian Parliament minister and member, pointed to the need for legislative review and strengthening the country’s laws around illicit drug trade and border control. Tikoduadua also called for harsher penalties on those involved in the drug trade and building effective processes for police investigations while emphasizing that education is one of the best tools to discourage Fijians from using drugs.