NUKU’ALOFA, 23 AUGUST 2021 (RNZ PACIFIC)—The first packets of cocaine were handed over to Tonga Police last month triggering a large search operation on the outer island.

A total of 15 people – 12 in Vava’u and three in Tongatapu – have been charged in relation to the seizure of over 14 kilogrammes of cocaine which has an estimated street value of $5million pa’anga.

Five people accused in relation to the seized cocaine have had their cases adjourned to 4 October at the Magistrate’s Court in Neiafu for submission to the Supreme Court.

Among them are three foreigners, 70-year-old Ian Robin Cox a British national, his American wife Brenda Cox who is 58-years-old and fellow American Calvin Manuceau who is 25 years of age.

The trio all lived at Houmelei in Neiafu.

The two other accused, whose cases have been adjourned, are Andrew Motuliki from ‘Utulangivaka and Kapeni Tamo’ua of ‘Utungake.

The 10 remaining accused are still in police custody. Their cases are expected to be called today at the lower court.

The charges laid by police range from possession and engaging with others in the supply of illicit drugs to intentionally lying to police, contravening section 29 of the Illicit Drugs Control Act.

RNZ Pacific’s correspondent in Tonga Kalafi Moala said police have confirmed the cocaine was brought into the Kingdom by yachties.

Moala said the police announced that the cocaine packages looked similar to those that were found in Vava’u in 2012 through the wrecked yacht JeReVe.

“What we know is that the yachties are connecting with a number of locals to distribute the cocaine. However, they’re not distributing within Tonga.

“The police believe that the cocaine could be heading to New Zealand or Australia,” Moala said.

“Vava’u is a very popular destination for yachties. The police felt that the cocaine was anchored there in Vava’u to hide and that locals would find it and bring it onto the land.”

RNZ Pacific are awaiting a response from Tonga police on any further updates on the cocaine cases…..PACNEWS

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