Samoa’s Police Commissioner Fuiavaili’ili Egon Keil admits that it is fair to say that Samoa is one of the gateways for the smuggling of drugs to bigger countries.
“But it’s not just Samoa, it’s the same for Tahiti where a yacht was recently caught with a large quantity of cocaine with a street value in millions of dollars,” he said in response to Samoa Observer questions during an interview at his office.
The Commissioner was elaborating on the importance of having the Pacific Transnational Crime Network (P.T.C.N.), in all the Pacific islands.
Currently, there are 16 countries which are members of the P.T.C.N. with the newest member, being American Samoa where their Transnational Crime Unit was officially opened last month.
He emphasized the importance of P.T.C.N. which provides an inter-connected, proactive transnational criminal intelligence and investigative capability for the Pacific. The network is a multi-agency law enforcement approach, primarily consisting of police, customs and immigration officers with close links to various other agencies.
According to the Commissioner, Samoa is not immune as the “bad guys” target the small island nations to get through to the bigger countries which have the money to buy and sell these types of drugs.
“When there are drugs, there are guns and when those two mix up, its always deadly and that’s why the TCU in the Pacific works day and night to stop these types of transactions,” said Fuiavaili’ili.
In Radio New Zealand reports, the cocaine seized in the Tuamotus last week was destined for New Caledonia or possibly Australia.
Authorities found 237 kilogrammes [522 lbs] of cocaine on a burnt-out yacht on Faaite after its two sailors had been detained by the police.
“The prosecutor, Herve Leroy said the two Spanish men, in their forties, deny any knowledge of the cargo. The yacht had run aground and was on fire when the two men were rescued and given medical care. When locals tried to clean up the debris of the burnt yacht, they found the cocaine amid signs that a huge quantity had already been burnt.”
In January, 1.4 tonnes of cocaine was seized in the region on two other yachts.
Samoa’s Police Commissioner further told Samoa Observer that currently they are keen to get their law enforcement officers to undergo training and workshops to upskill their methods of tackling these issues.
“It’s (drug trafficking) happening in the Pacific and it will happen in Samoa if we are not watchful about securing our borders and that’s why it’s relatively important to work with Customs and the Attorney General’s Office to tackle these difficult issues.”
Chief Executive Officer of the Prime Minister’s Office, Agafili Shem Leo, shares the same concerns as the Police Commissioner.
Last month, during the Pacific Immigration Directors Conference (P.I.D.C.) press conference, Agafili said criminals are using Samoa as a gateway to New Zealand and Australia.
He said aside from dugs smuggling, there is also human trafficking or people smuggling that is becoming more common and this is because of the Samoa’s proximity to New Zealand and Australia.
He further stated the increase of organised crime is increasing due to the availability of technology and these crimes are happening all over the world and Samoa is no exception from being affected indirectly from these crimes.
Agafili at the time of the press conference stated that having the Samoa Transnational Crime Unit in Samoa alongside other law enforcement agencies will assist in border protection for Samoa.