Australian appetite for drugs feeds billion dollar trade that threatens Tonga, other islands, through smuggling and domestic abuse

    Tonga is the victim of the appetite for methamphetamine and cocaine in Australia and New Zealand, according to an investigation by the Guardian.

    The report by Kate Lyons, said Tonga, Samoa, Fiji were suffering because of addiction, corruption and violence caused by trans-Pacific smuggling and a growing domestic appetite for the drug.

    However, the Guardian report said it was the demand for drugs in cities such as Sydney and Auckland that was causing the real damage in the islands.

    It said drug users in these centre paid the highest price per gram (about NZ$314) for cocaine and had the highest cocaine use per capita in the world.

    “If we didn’t have Australian and New Zealand drug markets, we wouldn’t have the movement of drugs through the Pacific,” researcher Jose Sousa-Santos from Massey University in New Zealand.

    John Coyne from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said Pacific nations were the “victims” of being caught between Australia and its drug supplier.

    “We shouldn’t underestimate the affect of Australia for illicit drugs has on countries in the Pacific,” he said.

    Drug cartels were storing billions of dollars worth of drugs on island beaches and offshore, the Guardian said.

    Smuggling across the Pacific has grown drastically in recent years. The Australian Federal Police have seized about 7.5 tonnes of cocaine hidden in yachts since 2014.

    Superintendent Brett Kidner, who was senior Pacific liaison officer for the AFP until the start of this year, said he had seen an increase  in the domestic use of drug in Tonga, Samoa and Fiji.

    Taskforce

    In February this year Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga formed a Transnational, Serious and Organised Crime (TSOC) Pacific Taskforce to combat crime in the Pacific.

    Tonga Police Commissioner Steve Caldwell said the Tonga Police had initiated a drug taskforce to combat illicit drugs.

    “This arrangement will allow a stronger regional response to fight organised crime impacting on the Pacific,” Commissioner Caldwell said.

    Drug use in Tonga has been described as a “tsunami.” According to a One News report, there are five major methamphetamine syndicates in the kingdom, selling the drug for TP$400 to TP$600 a gram.

    As Kaniva news reported earlier this year, Tonga’s anti-drug task force has continued make arrests in the kingdom.

    Police seized about $US1.2 million worth of methamphetamines during an operation in Fāhefa.

    Convicted criminals deported to Tonga have been blamed by some for introducing the drug trade, but there have been accusation that people at the highest levels of society are involved.

    Highest levels

    Australian court files hold a copy of a letter written in 2010 by  Lord Tu’ilakepa on behalf of Colombian drug lord Obeil Antonio Zuluaga Gomez.

    According to Australian Federal Police, Gomez wanted to use Tonga as a hub for a global conspiracy to ship hundreds of kilograms of cocaine to Australia and China.

    Tu’ilakepa had never met Gomez, but wrote a letter to the head of the Immigration Department offering to sponsor him so he could get an urgent visa to come to Tonga.

    “I can also vouch that [he] is an honest, trustworthy and law abiding person,” Tu’ilakepa wrote. Gomez had done jail time for drug trafficking.

    Drug Taskforce arrests

    Tonga’ Drug Taskforce arrested dozens of people on drug charge since Christmas.

    Police officers from the Drugs Taskforce arrested suspects and confiscated guns, ammunition and drugs in Vava’u and Tongatapu over the Christmas break.

    “The harm that methamphetamine causes in our community cannot be overstated,” Deputy Commissioner Pelenatita Vaisuai said.

    “Drugs destroy the lives of the users, harming our children and our communities.”

    Police seized about $US1.2 million worth of methamphetamine during a drug operation in Fahefa.

    Last month police arrested four men seized 55 packs of cannabis (49.86 grams) and15 packs of methamphetamine (97.47 grams) along with drug paraphernalia and cash.

    During the Easter Public holidays, they arrested 17 people at three different locations in ongoing drugs operations.

    In April the Drug Taskforce arrested 10 men in Hofoa and seized 30 packs of methamphetamine  and nine packs of cannabis, ammunition and cash.

    They also arrested five men in Havelu and seized 15 packs of methamphetamine. Police also arrested a 26-year-old woman from Touliki and 20-year-old man from Houmakelikao for possessing methamphetamine.

    In March Quarantine Officers at the Fua’amotu International Airport intercepted 242.22 grams of cannabis seeds being illegally brought into the country.

    The main points

    • Tonga is the victim of the appetite for metamphetamine and cocaine in Australia and New Zealand, according to an investigation by the Guardian.
    • The report by Kate Lyons, said Tonga, Samoa, Fiji were suffering because of addiction, corruption and violence caused by trans-Pacific smuggling and a growing domestic appetite for the drug.

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