Police raids and a vulnerable public service
Samoa must be having its baptism of fire in terms of its fight against illicit drugs, if three Police raids in the space of a month resulting in the confiscation of drugs, guns and cash is any indication.
And the fact that the authorities continue to discover methamphetamine or meth in all their raids should be a cause for concern for a small island nation.
There was extensive coverage of a raid that the Police executed on Thursday night targeting a residence in Fa’atoia on pages 2-3 of the Saturday 8 January 2022 edition of the Samoa Observer.
The authorities confiscated four (drug) utensils, $5,000 tala cash, viagra tablets, electronic scale, fake plate numbers (Commissioner, Regulate, 2Pac), marijuana leaves weighing .57 grams as well as flash drives and external drives.
Two individuals were arrested and charged by the Police in connection to the illegal items that were seized on the night.
The Acting Police Commissioner, Auapaau Logoitino Filipo, was particularly interested in the confiscated license plates as he said upon preliminary inspection appeared to be fake.
On first impressions the vanity license plates that were confiscated during a recent police raid look authentic.
Except for the number plate with the word “COMMISSIONER”, the other three with the names “REGULATE” and “2PAC” have the standard features of legitimate plate numbers issued by the Land Transport Authority (L.T.A.).
The standard feature of an L.T.A. issued plate number is the name “Samoa” printed next to the Samoan flag with the words “Penina ole Pasefika” emblazoned on the metallic plate below the plate registration number. These features can be seen on the three plate numbers described above.
So how did these personalised license plates fall into the hands of these alleged drug peddlers who will go before the Court at the end of this month?
And are these personalised license plates the first confirmation of the existence of a drug syndicate whose network has now infiltrated Government institutions and includes civil servants?
Auapaau said the Police are now investigating how the license plates were manufactured and if there is any connection to the L.T.A. which is the sole State agency with the powers to issue valid vehicle license plates.
We commend the Police for their foresight as the confiscated license plates do look legit, so the investigation should uncover how they got into the possession of these drug offender suspects, and if there are L.T.A. staff involved.
It would be devastating for the country’s public service if more public officials are found to be connected to the syndicate. And we only have to look at the arrest and charging of the Assistant Electoral Commissioner, Afualo Daryl Mapu and his O.E.C. female colleague with possession of narcotics last week, to realise how vulnerable our bureaucracy is.
We are unlikely to know the full extent of civil servants’ alleged involvement in drug offences until the Police complete their investigations.
But looking at the items that were seized in the three separate raids over the last month, we can already see a familiar pattern of more assets and personal effects emerging together with the discovery of hard cash and illegal firearms.
The raid last Thursday night at Fa’atoia resulted in the confiscation of a number of mobile phones and external drives together with $5,000 cash and illicit drugs. In the raid targeting a property in Maali Street, Vaitele fou, the Police also found a number of mobile phones, jewellery and electronics.
Experience from narcotics investigations around the world show luxury goods including mobile phones and jewellery are often considered “cash convertible”. That is, they can be used by offenders to convert to hard cash, in order to avoid using financial institutions and systems, which are obligated under international money laundering conventions to give information to authorities including the Police.
The arrest and charging of the Assistant Electoral Commissioner should also compel the Public Service Commission (P.S.C.) to consider the formulation of a drug workplace policy for the public service and the conducting of awareness within the various Government Ministries.
The awareness should include educational material and presentations on how civil servants can identify signs of possible drug misuse at the workplace. The awareness’ objective is to enable workers to identify drug misuse so help can be sought.
We look forward to the outcome of the Police investigation and hope no stone will be left unturned, while at the same time urge the P.S.C. to consider office-focused awareness programs so people are knowledgeable of the effects and impact of illegal drug consumption.