Tonga was the main site for methamphetamine smuggling, a New Zealand government minister claimed this morning.
Associate Finance Minister Shane Jones described Tonga as “the main culprit in the issue.”
The Minister’s comments came as Tongan police said a second man had been arrested in connection with a major drugs bust.
Tongan police seized close to $US900,000 worth of methamphetamine at Fua’amotu International Airport.
Acting chief superintendent Tevita Vailea said police suspected the drugs were being smuggled to New Zealand.
The Minister cited poverty and instability in the Pacific as contributing to drug smuggling.
“Tonga has a frightfully high level of indebtedness,” Jones said.
“Tonga needs an enormous amount of assistance with its customs, it is a transit point. I can’t say too much about what the police may or may not have shared with us when I was an ambassador.
“I have extraordinarily high fears about Pacific Island states being used as transit points for mischief and mayhem eventually making its way to New Zealand.”
Jones described Pacific island nations as “failed states” and said they were the transit route for methamphetamine entering New Zealand.
A United Nations report said the Pacific islands were vulnerable to the activities of international gangs due to their location near major markets for methamphetamine and other drugs.
It said large quantities of cocaine smuggled through the region had been seized in Australia and cannabis continued to be smuggled into and through the Pacific.
The UN report said methamphetamine as well as the chemicals used to make it, were trafficked through the Pacific.
In 2016 three Tongans were part of a gang of six men arrested for trying to smuggle 494 kgs of methamphetamine, estimated to be worth half a billion dollars into New Zealand.
They were charged with importing, possession for supply, participating in an organized criminal group and money laundering.
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