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Fiji Time: 12:44 AM on Wednesday 30 July

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Military fights drugs

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

HUNDREDS of people have been arrested for drug peddling, including a primary school student, a grandmother and several business operators.

This was revealed yesterday by the military, after it had begun its crackdown on drug peddlers about a month ago.

Military liaison officer Major Sitiveni Qiliho said they arrested an average of 10 people a day, interviewed them and turned them over to police.

He said they now had sufficient information and would soon be visiting the various sources of the marijuana trade.

The operation, he said, was proving to be a success, because more people were becoming aware of their efforts and were tipping them off.

In some cases, those taken in for questioning soon spilled the beans on where they sourced their drugs from.

"When we bring them in, we take their statements and then we counsel them on the negative effects of marijuana," he said.

"The oldest people we have brought in were a 64-year-old man and a woman of the same age.

"The youngest was a primary school student," he said. Some of the seized dried leaves were packed in sachets, some were in plastic bags and others were rolled up into half joints.

From their interviews, the military estimates that the street value of a parcel of dried marijuana leaves is $800.

Several businesses that were allegedly selling marijuana on the side, were raided and its owners arrested. Major Qiliho said that all the drug bust case files have been referred to police. He said the operation would continue as long as they saw fit.

Military spokesman Major Neumi Leweni had earlier said that the operation was initiated because of the increasing concern about the sale of drugs and alcohol to young people.

Meanwhile, in a move to ease the mounting backlog of criminal cases before the High Court, High Court judge Justice Gerard Winter has directed that the lower courts be allowed to preside over cases that involve less than 0.5 grams of marijuana.

The Illicit Drug Act, which became effective in 2004, makes it mandatory that all cases related to drugs be dealt with by the High Court.

The maximum penalty for a drug offence when convicted by the High Court is life imprisonment.

All cases that involve a drug less than 0.5 grams will first be sent to the High Court, which will then direct it to the Magistrates Court. The new procedure is expected to deal with the overwhelming backlog of serious drugs cases before the High Court.


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