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Kata faces prison form importing illegal drug

NUKU΄ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, May 12, 2010) - A Customs Officer from Halaleva, Tevita Pati Kata (42), was today found guilty of the importation and possession of the illicit drug methamphetamine, worth an estimated NZ$10-17 million [US$7 to12 million], seized in a large drug bust last September by the Tonga Police.

A jury of seven, after deliberating for five hours in closed chambers, came back to court this afternoon, with a unanimous guilty verdict on both counts of importation and possession of the illicit drug for the accused.

Chief Justice Hon. Anthony Ford is to sentence Kata on June 11, 2010.

In Tonga the offences of importing and possessing an illicit drug carries a heavy imprisonment sentence of 30 years for importation and 25 years in prison for possession together with a hefty fine.

Kata appeared before Chief Justice Ford for the start of his jury trial on Monday, May 3 represented by counsel Sifa Tu'utafaiva while the Solicitor General 'Aminiasi Kefu acted for the Crown.

On September 21, 2009 police raided Kata's residence at Halaleva in Nuku'alofa where they found 30 litres of the liquid substance of the illicit drug in bottles, in a container together with muddy torn black handbag.

Results of scientific tests by experts confirmed the liquid substance to be illicit drugs that produced 17.6 kilos of methamphetamine valued between NZ$10-17 million [US$7-12 million].

The illicit substance was imported to Tonga by air and received by the DHL courier service in Nuku'alofa where the convicted importer had picked up the substance.

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