Two accused appear in Court over Ha’apai million cocaine bust

Hā e ongo tangata Tonga 'e toko ua 'i he fakamaau'anga' fekau'aki mo e kōkeini kilo e 58 ne puke i Ha'apai 'i he māhina kuo 'osi'

Two Tongan men have appeared in court after police seized 58 kg of cocaine worth around $30 million pa’anga in street value in Ha’apai.

The men aged 26 and 28 years old appeared at the Lower Court on Monday July 16.

They remain in police custody and are expected to return to court today Thursday 19 for a bail hearing.

Police made the seizure last month amid growing international concern that the region is becoming a transit point for drugs.

Police Commissioner Stephen Caldwell said there had been an ongoing police operation since June 8 but did not specify when the drugs were seized.

“We will protect our borders and people with everything it takes,” Caldwell said.

“The fight against illicit drugs is a challenge for the country and not just police. We need to protect our youth from these criminals who are destroying their future by addicting them to drugs.”

New Zealand recently boosted aid to NZ$700 million ($480 million) over the next four years in the South Pacific saying “failed states” had become transit points for drugs and needed assistance to strengthen their borders.

Assistant Finance Minister Shane Jones, a former ambassador to the Pacific Island states, singled out Tonga which carried a high debt level.

“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,” Jones said.

“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.”

Last year, the French navy intercepted a yacht near Tongan waters and found cocaine worth $US100 million on board.

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