Tonga: Criminal Deportees Have Demonstrated The Risks Of Serious Re-offenses

Tonga police: need legislative infrastructure to support better collaboration between Tonga and deporting countries

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, March 15, 2017) – Methamphetamine, criminal deportees and outlaw motorcycle gangs are the three main threats in policing the Pacific Region according to a 2016 Transnational Organised Crime Assessment.

While some 35 criminal deportees are returned to Tonga every year, Tonga Police revealed today that it is the gravity or severity of their reoffending that concerns law enforcement.

Deputy Police Commissioner Pelenatita Fe'ao Vaisuai highlighted serious cases of reoffending and the risk to society posed by some criminal deportees who were returned to Tonga, speaking at a three day National Deportation Reintegration Conference at the Fa'onelua Centre.

Her presentation today on "Criminal Deportation and the Challenges", illustrated how serious this issue is. She believes it is important for Tonga to find a way forward on how best to have criminal deportees properly integrated into society to ensure the safety of the community.

The USA has returned at least 700 criminal deportees to Tonga between 1992 and January 2016 - an average of 29 criminals a year.

However, according to police statistics up to 40 percent of the criminals deported to Tonga have come from New Zealand.

The majority are males between the ages of 25-35 years with common offences, including common/aggravated assaults, aggravated robbery, burglary, theft and drug related offences. The average length of time they lived outside of Tonga was just over 20 years, which explained a lot of the difficulty in getting them to fit into a new society, she said.

Hard facts

Deputy Commissioner Vaisuai presented the hard facts of some serious cases of reoffending in Tonga.

She said a criminal named "Deportee A" was deported from New Zealand on December 3, 2013 for killing his partner. He killed again within five-months of arriving in Tonga and is currently serving an 11-years sentence at Hu'atolitoli Prison.

Criminal "Deportee B" was deported from New Zealand on February 7, 2011 for a violent crime of manslaughter. This person was again convicted of manslaughter within one year after deportation to Tonga and is currently serving nine-years in Hu'atolitoli Prison.

Another criminal "Deportee C" was deported from USA on January 5, 2011 for family violence. This person has reoffended after deportation and was convicted for robberies, burglary and drugs offences. He is also pending trial for killing his brother in 2015.

Criminal "Deportee D" was deported from USA on June 25, 2008 for carjacking and theft. This person has reoffended twice within one-year after deportation for robbery and burglary.

Criminal "Deportee E" was deported from USA on January 20, 2005 for robbery and assault. This person was convicted of assaulting a police officer in 2009 and was involved in a robbery in 2010.

Criminal "Deportee F" was deported from USA on August 21, 2002 for a violent crime. He was convicted of murder in 2005 in Tonga for which he was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Criminal "Deportee G" was deported from Australia in the 1990s for violent crimes has reoffended and was convicted of armed robberies and burglaries. His latest conviction was for attempted armed robbery in July 2015 and he is currently serving time.

Deportee H was deported from USA on January 13, 2005 for fraud of almost half a million USD. This person reoffended and was convicted in 2008 for a similar offence where the ANZ Bank lost a six-figure amount.

Murders

Two brothers were deported to Tonga after serving time for the murder of an Australian policeman in NSW in 2002. They arrived in Tonga on March 1 and April 1 last year. 

One brother has since had one minor violation for a traffic offence but otherwise they had not reoffended in serious crimes, said Deputy Commissioner Vaisuai.

"This is to give you an idea of how serious this issue is; how important this conference is for a way forward to have these people in a strange homeland be properly integrated into society but also to look at the safety of the community," she said.

Gravity

A member of the conference asked the Deputy Commissioner on what percentage of crimes in Tonga have been committed by deportees and if it was a significant percentage that supported the perception that the deportees are committing the crimes.

She answered that what concerned Tonga Police was the gravity and seriousness of the offences and noted the examples she had given on the reoffending cases.

"The concern is the level of sophistication with which they have committed the crimes, which will influence the youth of Tonga on how to commit crimes in a sophisticated way. In addition, we are concerned in regards to their connection to organized crimes from where they were deported from -considering technology  online, mobile and so forth.

"It is really the severity or gravity of the offence that has been committed by criminals being returned home."

Way forward

The Deputy Commissioner said from the police perspective for a way forward, Tonga needs to have in place legislation for better protection and to advance a formal arrangement (MOA) between Tonga and deporting countries. 

"We also need in the operational side support for collaborative efforts with regards to reconnection and rehabilitation programs, maintaining effective information sharing and management and to share information - sharing with deporting countries like Australia, USA and New Zealand through various departments responsible for it," she said.

The conference ends on March 16 at the Fa'onelua Convention Centre.

Matangi Tonga Magazine
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I pray for all people in the world and I also believe in second chances in life. Peace.

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