FIJI POLICE MAKE LARGE MARIJUANA BUST

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Estimated street value of plants $96 million

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, May 28, 2009) – Eleven people were questioned by police regarding a $200million [US$96 million] drug bust which took place in Navosa last week.

Assistant police spokesman Sergeant Atunaisa Sokomuri said the 39-member drug unit made up of officers from the Police Drug Unit and the Ready Action Unit carried out the raid in Navosa.

"The operation Yadra ni Viti Rua is the second phase of the Drug Unit operation and it was carried out in Yau Yau and Natukalevu district from May 8 to 23," said Sgt Sokomuri.

Sgt Sokomuri said 26 farms were raided by the team with 15,392 plants believed to be marijuana were uprooted with an estimated street value of $200million.

The drug raid was led by head of the Police Drug Unit Inspector Sakeo Ganivatu.

Sgt Sokomuri said the operation involved officers setting up road blocks in the area and inspecting all vehicles that went in and out of the area.

He said the officers stopped a number of vehicles which were hired by the farmers to transport vegetables to the Sigatoka market.

"In those vehicles, we found bags of vegetables ready for sale at the market but inside those bags were plastic bags filled with marijuana leaves ready for sale on the street," he said.

Sgt Sokomuri said the farmers were arrested and taken in for questioning.

He said the police officers involved in the drug raid were still in the villages conducting their investigations.

This is the second drug bust in Navosa. The first raid was carried out in March this year.

Operation Yadra Viti, which was the first phase of the operation, netted more than 10,000 marijuana plants with a street value estimated at $200million, making it the biggest drug raid in the country's history, according to police.

Sgt Sokomuri said the plants were uprooted from more than 20 farms located in the upper reaches of the Sigatoka River within the borders of the provinces of Navosa and Ba.

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