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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Tongan Customs Agent Used Credit Card From Drug Yacht
Officer unsuccessfully tried to use card at local ATM

NUKUALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Dec. 5, 2012) – Tonga's Police Commissioner Grant O'Fee today alleged that an individual identified as a Tonga Customs Officer used a credit card belonging to Milan Rindzak (35), whose remains were found on the drugs yacht 'JeReVe' that was discovered wrecked on the Luatafito Atoll in Vava'u, on November 7.

He claimed that the individual unsuccessfully attempted to use the credit card at the Westpac Bank, Neiafu, EFTPOS machine on November 10, three-days after Rindzak's badly decomposed body was found with over 200 kilograms of cocaine on the yacht.

It is alleged that the credit card was eaten up by the EFTPOS machine and that the customs officer came back later on November 12 to retrieve it. This aroused suspicion by bank officials and police were notified.

Commissioner O'Fee said the individual, who he did not identify, had not been arrested or charged at this stage of the police investigation.

He said that the police did not anticipate that the individual was a passenger of the yacht.

He declined to comment on further queries raised as to whether the customs officer was part of the police operation that recovered the drugs from the yacht.

"We are following strong leads," he said.

The cocaine seized from the yacht was worth and estimated AU$116 million [US$121.3 million] and was transported from Tonga to Australia for destruction.

Two days

Earlier reports from the police stated that it took two days to reach the yacht, after two divers spotted it wrecked on the reef. One diver had climbed on board to check and found the dead body on 7 November. They immediately returned to Neiafu and informed the police, but due to the bad weather and strong winds the police were not able to go down immediately and did not reach the scene until 9 November.

On 16 November, police held a press conference with local media and revealed that they had seized cocaine found on the yacht.

Matangi Tonga Magazine:
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