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"Worker" jailed over biggest drug bust in history

A man, who claimed that he was working for “elderly men of Faleatiu” by overseeing marijuana plantation, has been jailed for seven years and three months for drugs.

Tuanai Ioka, 39, of Aufaga and Solosolo, pleaded guilty to charges of cultivation of marijuana, possession of unregistered firearms and possession of unlawful ammunition.

An estimate of 10, 964 marijuana plants was seized by Police from five different fields in Faleatiu during the biggest drug bust in Samoa's history last November, the Court heard. 

Police summary of facts stated that on 8 November 2019, Ioka was employed by the “koeaiiga” or elderly men of Faleatiu for about a month. 

In sentencing Ioka on Thursday, Justice Leiataualesa Daryl Clarke said the accused with his co-defendants fled the scene when Police executed their search warrant at Faleatiu property. 

Eleven suspects, including two couples, were charged in connection to the raid. 

“Aggravating feature is the sheer quantity of the marijuana cultivated and seized,” said Justice Leiataualesa. 

“The use of gun against Police and others to protect the drug trade is also not new.  Police have been shot, injured and killed when executing their duties against drug operations in this country.”

Justice Leiataualesa said the combination of firearms and drugs as the Court has made clear calls for significant penalty. 

He said this is because the firearms connected with drugs are generally intended for the purposes of defending the drug trade and deterring Police and others from interfering with it.

“There is no place in Samoa for this conduct nor for these commercial drug operations protected by firearms,” said the Supreme Court Judge. 

“If you involve yourself in such an operation in this way, you must be prepared for the very serious consequences that follow.”  

The Judge took 10 years as starting point for sentence and uplift of 1 year for Ioka’s previous conviction for narcotics offending. 

 He deducted time for the defendant’s remorse and his guilty plea sentencing him to serve 7 years and 3 months concurrently for the charges. 

Raised at Solosolo village, Ioka completed school to year 8 and discontinued his education to render service to his family. 

He was a fisherman and had looked after his family plantation to support his parents. 

The Court heard that he was described by his father as a nomadic person that is hardly ever home and mostly at Faleatiu.

His mother had expressed affection for him and though she cares for him, describes him as a disobedient son. 

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