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Regional News

Big drug haul in Marshalls may lead to prosecution

MAJURO — Marshall Islands police confiscated 18 kilos (approximately 40 pounds) of professionally wrapped bags of white powder believed to be cocaine last week that washed up on the shore of Enewetak Atoll, the former United States nuclear weapons testing site, police said Friday in Majuro.

Packages of cocaine were discovered on Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands recently, the latest drug cache to be found washed up on a beach in this western Pacific nation.  Photo by Hilary HosiaPackages of cocaine were discovered on Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands recently, the latest drug cache to be found washed up on a beach in this western Pacific nation. Photo by Hilary Hosia
This is the latest of an ongoing series of drug packages to wash up on beaches in this remote western Pacific nation.

The drugs were discovered by a Marshall Islander resident of Enewetak Atoll. Police said they anticipate criminal charges will be filed against this individual in the near future because the drug were not immediately turned over to authorities. Cocaine that is believed to have come from Enewetak is now being sold in the capital, Majuro.

A large volume of cocaine washed up in Enewetak Atoll last month at Medren, a small island on the southeast part of Enewetak’s necklace of 40 coral islands. Close to a thousand Enewetak islanders live on the atoll.

Cocaine packages and outboard engine boats have been washing up on beaches around the Marshall Islands for over 30 years, with law enforcement officials saying the Marshall Islands is on the northern trans-Pacific cocaine route from South America to China. “The history of cocaine wash-ups in the Marshall Islands goes back into the 1980s,” said a 2012 report in the Asia Pacific Defense Reporter, an Australia-based military and law enforcement-related website. “Joint Interagency Task Force West (a U.S. military program focused on combating drug-related transnational crime) conducted an extensive intelligence-gathering operation between 2006 and 2010.”

Between 2002 and 2009, bundles of cocaine and boats with cocaine on board were found washed up on beaches around the Marshall Islands on at least six separate occasions. “This indicates a very substantial and long-established cocaine trade, and one on a massive scale,” said the Asia Pacific Defense Reporter.

Residents in Majuro, the capital of the Marshall Islands, say that cocaine from Enewetak is now available from dealers in Majuro in the form of processed crack cocaine.

“A total of 18 packages of what is believed to be drugs were confiscated by the Marshall Islands Police Department and Enewetak Local Police and brought to Majuro,” said Police Commissioner George Lanwi Friday. He said a police detective went to Enewetak last week “to conduct an investigation and confiscate the drugs that were reportedly in the possession of a resident of the island.”

Lanwi said the wrapped packages of drugs looked similar to professionally wrapped packages of drugs that washed up on different atolls over the past several decades. They were “ block shaped and wrapped with plastic and duct tape to prevent them from getting wet,” said Lanwi.

The Office of the Attorney General “advised police detectives after reviewing the investigation report that criminal charges will be filed soon in court against the person who was in possession of the suspected drugs,” Lanwi said.

The Defense Reporter article said “the Marshall Islands is the focus of a world-scale drug trade route of such magnitude that both U.S. and Australian law enforcement officials have devoted significant efforts on researching and evaluating the problem.”