Fijian authorities were assisted by NZDF in cocaine retrieval

Crew members from Royal New Zealand Navy inshore patrol vessel HMNZS Taupo and personnel from Fiji Revenue and Customs Service wade towards the remote island where over 12 kgs of cocaine were found last week. Picture: SUPPLIED/NZDF

THE New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) says it assisted Fijian authorities in the retrieval of more than 12kilograms of cocaine found on a remote island in Fiji’s Lau group last week.

This was the second find on the island, the former being the recovery of 40kg of cocaine – about 31 bars with an estimated value of $31million – from the same island that is accessible only by ship.

In a statement issued by the NZDF last night, 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 formed part of the Lau group, following a request from Fiji Revenue and Customs Service (FRCS).

HMNZS Taupo, presently 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 last Friday, July 20, before resuming the fisheries patrol.

The NZDF stated that the Fiji Police Force tested the retrieved packages and confirmed it 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 Flight said in the statement.

In a statement issued last week, FRCS chief executive officer Visvanath Das said the joint operation sent a clear message that Fijian authorities were determined to protect the country’s borders and would not allow it to be used as a transit or a destination for illegal drugs.

He had said surveillance in coastal communities and seas was an ongoing challenge for Customs, but with the assistance and cooperation from island communities, they could protect the borders from illicit trade.

The NZDF has been helping Fijian authorities enforce regulations for inshore fishing through the combined patrols that began in early June.

It stated that for the the second consecutive year, the NZDF had deployed an inshore patrol vessel to help Fiji patrol its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of over 1.2 million square kilometres.

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