A suspended Senior Customs Officer has been found guilty over an attempt to smuggle 6662 grams of methamphetamine worth of TOP$1 million from the US into Tonga concealed inside a box.
Paula Naitoko, 62, was also found guilty over an attempt to import prohibited goods into the Kingdom including 1 Kaiser Defence Mod KR5 semi-automatic rifle; 1 Glock 19 semi-automatic pistol; 1 Taurus 709 semi-automatic pistol; 1 Springfield semi-automatic pistol and 39 ammunition without import licences under the Arms and Ammunitions Act.
Text messages provided to the court showed a man Aleki Mafile’o in the US confirmed to a shipment company that Paula Naitoko would pick up the consignment in Tonga. A response to that text message confirmed the shipment was released to Naitoko.
Naitoko’s lawyer Sifa Tu’utafaiva told the court his client “had no knowledge about the illegal items that were contained in the box”.
“He submitted that the Crown has not proven beyond reasonable doubt that the Defendant had knowledge of the illegal items contained in the box”.
Justice Laki Niu said he was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt, that the accused, Paula Naitoko, had knowledge of the illicit drugs, firearms and ammunition which were found in that box.
“He himself tried to get that box released from customs when he had no legitimate connection with it or its contents in any way whatsoever”, Mr Niu said.
“I consider that he had not committed the offence of importing (count 1) but that he had committed the offence of causing to import (count 2).
“ If he had provided to ‘Aleki Mafile’o his own name, Paula Naitoko, as the consignee of the box, he would clearly have been guilty of importing the box. But in this case, he agreed to provide and he provided to ‘Aleki Mafile’o the name of a person who was not consulted and who had not consented, and who had no knowledge of it whatsoever, but which enabled the box to be processed through customs in Tonga. He thereby caused the box to be imported into Tonga.
“I therefore find that the accused has committed and is guilty of the offences in counts 2 and 3 and he is acquitted of the offence in count 1 because it is in the alternative to count 2, and I convict him accordingly of counts 2 and 3.