17 Jun 2004

Fiji government strengthens penalties for drug offences

10:58 am on 17 June 2004

Fiji's parliament has passed tough new illicit drug laws providing for severe penalties.

The new law stipulates a maximum fine of 600-thousand US dollars or life imprisonment, or both, for anyone found guilty of manufacturing, importing or exporting illicit drugs like heroin or meth-amphetamines.

The law also applies to anyone found guilty of importing chemicals for the manufacture of such drugs.

The law allows police to tap telephone calls with a warrant from a judge and install tracking devices on vehicles, ships and aircraft suspected of carrying illicit drugs.

Under the law, the identity of police informers and witnesses will be protected.

The law also empowers police to bring in doctors to carry out internal body searches of smugglers suspected of having ingested drugs.

But the new law is not retrospective and has come too late for the six Asians arrested for the manufacture of meth-amphetamine in the 600-million US dollar drug bust in Suva last week.

They face a maximum of just 1,200-US dollars in fines and 8-years in jail.