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AVARUA, Cook Islands (March 25, 2001 - Radio Cook Islands/PINA Nius Online)---Seven people are now facing charges thanks to the assistance of the recently acquired Cook Islands police drug dog Kelly.

The charges include possession and cultivation of cannabis, possession of instruments for smoking cannabis and obstruction of a police investigation.

"This is just the beginning of a crackdown on drugs in the Cook Islands," said Police Commissioner Greenfield Wichman.

In an interview on Cook Islands Television, Deputy Prime Minister and Police Minister Norman George said: "There are people out there that made fun of me when I claimed that drugs are readily around and our young people are made the victims of those that are growing, producing and selling these drugs.

"Well you see the evidence tonight. I hope those who laughed at me, made fun of me, will eat humble pie."

Mr. George had fulfilled his general election campaign promise to introduce drug dogs as a proactive measure against illegal drugs.

The $15,000 drug dog is a justification that a problem exists, said Commissioner Wichman.

"Kelly’s acquisition has been well worth it," he said.

"We are looking at a return of $4-5,000 on Day 2 of the operation."

Kelly was put to work almost immediately after his arrival from Wellington with New Zealand Police Sergeant Graham Puryer and Kelly’s handler, Senior Constable Junior Ngatokorua.

On Monday, March 19th he began airport checks. Then on Thursday, March 22nd he began residential raids.

From the residential raids, police confiscated seeds, seedlings, bongs, bullets, two 6-foot plants and two stumps of harvested plants.

Three people are now in custody, with the remainder under interrogation.

Police have been collecting information about consumers and distributors of drugs for many years now, but were unable to catch them in the act.

"The people they arrested are not even on our list," said Mr. George. "When we start working on the list there will be more arrests."

Both Mr. George and Mr. Wichman are ecstatic with the progress into stamping out drugs. They would like to warn the public to clean up their act before Kelly arrives at the door.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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