Gangs smuggle guns into Tonga as kingdom faces a “tsunami” of methamphetamine

Drug dealers are smuggling guns as well as methamphetamine into the kingdom, according to a New Zealand television report.

Veteran Pacific journalist Barbara Dreaver reported claims by a gang member that guns were being smuggled in from America and China.

“The Chinese people bring them in from China mixed in with imported goods,” the syndicate member said.

The Salvation Army has described the sale of P in the kingdom as a “tsunami” and a police task force has made 96 drug-related arrests since April.

Tongan police said they were not well resourced or prepared to deal with the level of drug dealing and smuggling.

“When they arrive at the border of Tonga we are not well resourced, we are not well prepared,” Chief Superintendent Vailea said. 

Increasing numbers of criminal deportees from Australia and the US have been blamed for the growing drug trade.

As Kaniva news reported last year, about 30 Tongan nationals are deported from the United States each year.

With an average age of 25, many of the deportees have been engaged in gang activity since childhood and are unfamiliar with their own culture.

Last year a 2016 Transnational Organised Crime Assessment said methamphetamine, criminal deportees and outlaw motorcycle gangs were the three main threats in policing the region.

In April this year Radio Australia reported that the kingdom was facing a rising tide of methamphetamine abuse.

After a large drugs bust, police said that unlike other seizures where the drugs were destined for another country, they believed the methamphetamine was destined for the Tongan market.

Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat quoted the head of Tonga’s psychiatric ward at the country’s main hospital as calling methamphetamine “a growing disaster.”

According to Dreaver’s report on One News, the disaster is growing outside schools in Nuku’alofa.

She reported claims that people in power at all levels were involved in the drugs trade.

She reporteda drug syndicate member saying: “There are people in government that brings the thing over and I just distribute to the village.”

“Our stuff comes in containers. The people there operating, they know and they let it out,” a syndicate member said.

Dr Mapa Puloka,who works with addicts, claimed that church ministers were also involved in the trade.

“In some church, ministers are involved too. In the dealing, trafficking,” Dr Puloka said.

Tonga has for several years been a focus of concern among agencies fighting transnational crime in the Pacific.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, several Tongans were prosecuted over the seizure of 250 kg of pseudoephedrine and 16 kilograms of ephedrine in New Zealand in 2013.

The Tongan government has also expressed concern about the importation of weapons for several years. 

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