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Commissioner of Police Stephen Caldwell has responded to allegations raised in Parliament on Monday 6 February 2017

Radio & TV Tonga, Nuku’alofa, 10/02/2017

Commissioner of Police Stephen Caldwell has responded to allegations raised in Parliament on Monday 6 February 2017, about a large amount of drugs seized in Vava’u from the Yacht Jereve in 2012.

The Commissioner has personally reviewed this matter, and is satisfied that the illicit drugs seized by Tonga Police were properly receipted and analyzed at an Australian Drug Laboratory, following a request from Tonga Police for Australian Federal Police assistance.

Commissioner Caldwell has confirmed that the illicit drugs seized were destroyed by the appropriate authorities in Australia on 6 March 2013 after confirming it was cocaine.

No prosecution was initiated in relation to this seizure because no person was found to be in possession of the illicit drugs, and investigations did not identify persons responsible for transporting the illicit drugs on the yacht through Tongan waters. The Yacht Jereve had run aground on a reef in Vava’u, and a body of a deceased European male was discovered on the yacht already decomposed.

The Commissioner had previously reported on his findings to Government on 28 April 2016, and also followed up with a suggestion on 3 October 2016 to have this matter independently audited by the Auditor General and the Ombudsman, to provide final assurances on concerns raised.

The Police Copmmissioner said continually defaming Tonga Police and senior Police Officers without any apparent foundation is highly detrimental to the reputation of the Tonga Police and undermines the respect and trust that they’re trying to earn with their service to the Community.

Commissioner Caldwell continued that the unfounded comments attack the reputation of all the good police officers who go to work every day to do their best, and are faced with dangerous situations and life’s tragedies that no one else has to deal with. It is accepted that, like any other organization in the Kingdom and the world, the Tonga Police is not free from corruption, misconduct or criminal activities by its personnel, however there is absolutely zero tolerance for such actions in Tonga Police and Police Officers will be held accountable with the full force of the law. If members of the public have specific allegations, he said he would encourage them to bring it to his personal attention. He said he takes matters of integrity and honesty very seriously.

He added that the public should be aware that under the Tonga Police Act, the Police Board, through recommendations from the Police Executive Committee, has terminated the employment of twelve (12) Police Officers in the past five (5) years in relation to serious misconduct or loss of confidence in their performance.

There have also been five (5) Police Officers convicted in the Supreme Court for serious criminal offences in the past 5 years.

There are currently fourteen (14) criminal investigations underway against Police Officers conducted by the Tonga Police Professional Standards Unit, at the direction of the Commissioner. There are also twenty-eight (28) disciplinary investigations underway at the direction of the Commissioner.

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