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Weapon haul a deeper problem: expert

A transnational crime expert has warned that the weapons haul last Thursday from a Police raid at Faleula are signs of a “deeper problem” in Samoa than previously envisaged.

Jose Luis Sousa-Santos, Managing Director of international risks security analysis group Strategika Group Asia Pacific, said in an emailed response to questions from the Samoa Observer that the confiscation of 15 weapons during the raid points to a “deeper” problem than initially realised.

Utensils, which the Police believe are allegedly associated with the manufacture and consumption of narcotics, were also confiscated during the raid last Thursday.

Asked how Samoa will be able to effectively monitor its maritime boundary due to limited resources and capacity, Mr Sousa-Santos said Pacific states including Samoa will continue to face challenges to effectively combat drug trafficking.

“Geographies and capabilities mean that Pacific states such as Samoa face considerable challenges in combating drug trafficking - as do all countries including New Zealand and Australia,” he states in his email.

“Effective responses to drug smuggling in Samoa and the Pacific region require strong national political will, acknowledging that there is an issue and putting the resources behind it to support the relevant agencies as well as wider communities who are also on the frontline of this threat. 

“The recent weapons haul in Samoa tells us that the problem is potentially deeper than realised. There also need to be effective regional responses which are Pacific-led and partner-supported.”

The 15 weapons that were seized during the Police raid last Thursday comprised .22 and .38 calibre pistols, a shotgun, a .22 rifle and two large barreled rifles. 

Samoa currently plays host to the Pacific Transnational Crime Network [P.T.C.N.] which was established in Apia in 2002 to enable Pacific island law enforcement agencies to work collaboratively.

It is understood the P.T.C.N. enables the sharing of criminal intelligence between Pacific island states as well as boost the capabilities of local law enforcement agencies to effectively address transnational crime in their jurisdictions through a regional approach.

When Mr Sousa-Santos was asked how networking and intelligence sharing between Samoa and bigger neighbours like New Zealand and Australia was essential in the fight against transnational crime, he said it was crucial but the success of intelligence sharing would also depend on trust between individuals and institutions.

“Intelligence sharing is crucial between all stakeholder agencies combating transnational crime in the Pacific, however intelligence sharing depends on high levels of trust in both individuals and institutions. 

“In cases like the P.N.G. seizure [of 500kg of heroine a fortnight ago bound for Australia], operational security would have required a balance between how much information was shared between all partners. This is a double-edged sword.”

Attending the Women, Peace and Security Summit in Samoa in August last year, Mr Sousa-Santos told the Samoa Observer in an interview that there has been a rapid growth in the Pacific market for drugs and Samoa is becoming a target. 

He said at that time that within the space of two-to-three years, Tonga and Fiji have had to deal with major problems associated with ice [methamphetamine], but Samoa still has the opportunity to solve the problem now while it's manageable. 

Mr Sousa-Santos has researched and analysed issues associated with transnational crimes for about 20 years, with eight years dedicated to the Pacific region. He has also served with the United Nations, the Australian Defence Force, the New Zealand Police [National Intelligence Centre] and was an advisor to the former Timor Leste president and prime minister, Dr Jose Ramos-Horta. 

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