24 July 2018
The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) has assisted Fiji authorities in retrieving over 12 kilograms of cocaine, found on a remote island last week.
Lieutenant Benjamin Flight, the Commanding Officer of Royal New Zealand Navy inshore patrol vessel HMNZS Taupo, said the ship’s crew members recovered the illicit drugs from an island that forms part of Fiji’s Lau group, following a request from Fiji Revenue and Customs Service.
Early in July, Fiji authorities recovered 40 kilograms of cocaine from the same island, which is accessible only by ship.
HMNZS Taupo, which is currently in Fiji conducting combined maritime patrols with the Republic of Fiji Navy and other Fiji enforcement agencies, brought the cocaine cache to the Fijian capital of Suva early on Friday before resuming the fisheries patrol. The Fiji Police Force tested the retrieved packages and confirmed that they contained cocaine.
“Although our combined maritime patrols are focussed primarily on enforcing regulations for inshore fishing, we also support enforcement action by other Fiji agencies,” Lieutenant Benjamin Flight said.
Mr Visvanath Das, the Chief Executive Officer of the Fiji Revenue and Customs Service, said the joint operation sends a clear message.
“Fiji authorities are determined to protect our country’s borders and will not allow it to be used as a transit or a destination for illegal drugs. Surveillance in coastal communities and seas is an ongoing challenge for Customs. However, with the assistance and cooperation from island communities, we can protect our borders from illicit trade,” Mr Das said.
Through the combined patrols, which began in early June, the NZDF has been helping Fiji authorities enforce regulations for inshore fishing, protect fishery resources and police the South Pacific country’s borders.
For the second consecutive year, the NZDF has deployed an inshore patrol vessel to help Fiji patrol its Exclusive Economic Zone of over 1.2 million square kilometres. Personnel from Fiji’s Ministry of Fisheries and Revenue and Customs Service are leading the inspections.