11 Jun 2004

Six foreigners appear in Suva court over drug bust

4:42 pm on 11 June 2004

Five Asian men and an Asian woman arrested in connection with Wednesday's 600-million US dollar drug bust have appeared in the Suva magistrate's court.

They have been charged with manufacturing the illicit drug methamphetamine or ice.

Only two of the accused were represented by a local lawyer while four did not have legal representation.

They were refused bail and the case has been shifted to the High Court.

Fiji's deputy director of public prosecutions, Peter Ridgeway, has expressed regret that under current Fiji laws the maximum sentence that can be imposed is only eight years.

Legislation currently before parliament provides for a fine of up to 600-thousand US dollars and a sentence of life behind bars, but it has not been passed yet.

Meanwhile, the police commissioner, Andrew Hughes, has strongly denied suggestions that corrupt officers from the force helped the accused set up what was the largest drug laboratory in the southern hemisphere.

But he says some government officials have been implicated and are under investigation.

Radio Legend reports that Mandarin and Cantonese speaking officers from abroad have been brought in to help translate documents and conversation which would help identify the public servants involved.