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Fiji court grants bail to 13 people charged in relation to 4800kg meth bust

Tuesday 30 January 2024 | Written by RNZ | Published in Fiji, Regional

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Fiji court grants bail to 13 people charged in relation to 4800kg meth bust
The 13 people charged in relation to the Fiji meth bust have been released on bail. Photo: FBC/24012937

A Fiji court has granted bail to 13 people charged in relation to the seizure of almost five tonnes of methamphetamine.

The Nadi Magistrates Courts has placed the accused under a curfew and ordered them to report to the Nadi Police Station.

The accused will appear at the Lautoka High Court on Friday (Fiji time).

The 13, including a former national squash champion Justin Ho, are facing charges for unlawful importation and unlawful possession of illicit drugs, possession of property suspected of being proceeds of crime, relating to the importation and transportation of the illicit substances.

It is estimated that the estimated street value the haul is more than FJ$2 billion (NZ$1.68b).

"The 13 include 32-year-old Justin Ho, 44-year David Heritage, 22-year Louie Frank Logaivau, 40- year Issac Lesiyanawai, 44-year Ratu Aporosa Davelevu, 30-year Sakiusa Tuva, 29-year Iosefo Roqica, 27-year Maika Yabakivou, 30-year Ratu Osea Levula, 31 year Cathy Tuirabe, 29-year Nancy Mateyawa, 42-year Jale Aukerea and 29-year Keanie Mcpherson," state broadcaster FBC reported.

Ho, Lagivou and Aukerea have being charged with possession of cash in local and overseas currency suspected to have come from the proceeds of crime, totally over US$11,000.

Ho was charged, alongside Frederick Epeli, who was a Fiji Airways flight attendant at the time, for exporting 2015.7 grams of cocaine to Sydney in 2018.

But both men walked free after the State could not locate the evidence - the drugs exhibit went missing from the Namaka Police Station - and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions filed to discontinue proceedings December 2020.

On Monday, Fiji Police assistant police commissioner (crime) Mesake Waqa confirmed "Fiji was being used as a transit point and that the methamphetamine was destined for a foreign market".

Waqa said the drugs arrived in Fiji in late December.

He said the exchange of the shipment of methamphetamine is believed to be made outside of Fiji's Exclusive Economic Zone, and the packages were delivered via a barge.

Fiji police is working with its foreign counterparts, including the Australian Federal Police and the Pacific Transnational Crime and Coordination Centre, and expecting to make more arrests.

"The Fiji Police Force will not be making further comments on the ongoing investigation until major developments are made," Waqa said.