French Navy Seizes Yacht With 1.5 Tonnes Of Cocaine 'Off Tongan Waters'

Tongan police, navy not involved in operation; unclear exact location of intercept

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Aug. 1, 2017) – Both His Majesty’s Armed Forces (HMAF) and Tonga Police confirmed today that  they were not involved in a massive cocaine seizure by the French navy from a yacht "off Tongan waters" in recent days. French media reported today that over 1.5 tonnes of cocaine was seized from a sailing boat.

A Tonga Police spokesperson told Matangi Tonga this afternoon that  they had no knowledge of this operation that seized the cocaine "off Tonga waters".

Tonga Police Transnational Crimes Unit and its Search and Rescue Unit confirmed they had no knowledge, information nor had any involvement on this seizure and operation.

"Media reports are unclear on the location of this seizure it only just reported 'off Tonga waters', but no specific location. What we can confirm is that we had no information on this," said a police spokesperson today.

At the same time, a spokesperson for His Majesty’s Armed Forces (HMAF) confirmed this afternoon they were not involved in this regional operation.

The French language website Les Nouvelles Caledoniennes today reported the seizure of cocaine which was taken to New Caledonia. Plus d'1,4 tonne de cocaïne saisie par les Fanc et la gendarmerie calédonienne

The report said that a sailboat was intercepted by the Fanc (armed forces of New Caledonia) in the last days off Tonga with more than 1.4 tonnescocaine on board.

"The operation was carried out in the framework of regional cooperation. The Fanc, the national gendarmerie and the customs took part in this operation."

The report also stated that the French frigate the Vendemiaire had sailed last Monday from the base Chaleix to carry out this mission. The seized goods were loaded on board and the frigate returned this morning and docked at 6 o'clock.

"The unloading of the goods took place under good surveillance, by hooded soldiers. The cocaine was then transferred to a secret place where it should be destroyed after the investigation."

The report stated that four occupants of the sailboat had been placed in police custody and should be brought before the Noumea prosecution office shortly.

[PIR editor's note: On Aug. 2, 2017 RNZI reported that 'Officials in New Caledonia say the four men arrested on a yacht with 1.4 tonnes of cocaine are from Latvia and Lithuania. ... Their Gibraltar-flagged boat was intercepted by the French navy off Tonga several days ago in a joint mission with police and customs officials. ... The boat, L'Afalina, had reportedly been tracked since its crew drew attention to it in French Polynesia. ... The news agency AFP reported the British authorities were advised of the tracking and interception which also involved the cooperation of the police of the US and Australia. ... The cocaine, which was worth more than $US100 million, is believed to have been destined for Australia.']

This is not the first time that services in Caledonia have organized operations against drug traffickers. In 2012, the French navy had intercepted off the coast of Caledonia, a yachtcarrying 200 kg of "pretty pure cocaine" from Peru. The goods were not intended for the New Caledonian market but for the Australian market.

Tonga

Meanwhile in Tonga, His Majesty’s Armed Forces are currently conducting a two-week military training exercise called “Exercise Tafakula”. The joint exercise involves the participation of soldiers from the United States Marine Corp and Navy, the French Military and the New Zealand Defense Force.  An opening ceremony for the exercise took place on July 17.

Matangi Tonga Magazine
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