Fisheries assists Customs investigation
The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has stepped up to assist the Ministry of Customs and Revenue to investigate a container alleged to have $10 million worth of sea cucumbers intended for export.
In response to queries from the Samoa Observer, M.A.F. Chief Executive Officer, Tilafono David Hunter, said the suspected container was intercepted by Customs at the wharf.
He did not say when the container was intercepted.
“Because the suspected container was intercepted by M.C.R. Customs at the wharf, it comes under their jurisdiction,” said Tilafono.
“M.A.F. Quarantine Division assisted the M.C.R. Customs with the investigations of the intercepted container given M.A.F. Quarantine Division's role with our border monitoring activities.”
The C.E.O. said he was unable to give further details until the investigation is completed.
M.C.R. C.E.O., Matafeo Avalisa Viali Fautuaali’i said no one has been charged yet in relation to the discovery.
Matafeo added the investigation is part of a years of collecting information on suspected persons involved.
“This matter at this stage as it is under critical investigation and would very much appreciate your patience and consideration of national importance of this case,” she said.
“As we need to find, confirm and charge the perpetrator(s) before we make media release on this matter.
“We understand the importance for this information for the public knowledge and to deter future similar offences but we also have to be very mindful of any litigation against the government in the event we publicly release any information without thorough confirmation and evidence…”
In addition, the C.E.O. said, this will also avoid any risks to our investigation and intel we have been collecting for many years up to now on the number of persons suspected to be involved.
Police Commissioner, Fuiavailiili Egon Keil was also asked for a comment into the investigation.
He confirmed he was aware of the matter and Customs was leading the investigation.
The most recent case of a person being charged in harvesting sea cucumber was in 2016 where a businessman was charged for operating an unlicensed fish processing plant for sea cucumbers.
The businessman, who appealed his guilty conviction in 2020, had his Fugalei premises raided by M.A.F. where substantial amount of sea cucumbers were seized.