Duo sentence increased in cocaine case

THE sentence of an Australian National and a Fijian man convicted of the unlawful possession of illicit drugs was increased last week by the Court of Appeal.

The duo who had appealed against their conviction and sentence had their sentences increased from 14 years to 25 years imprisonment by the Court of Appeal setting the first sentencing tariffs for hard drugs in Fiji.

Joseph Abourizk and Josese Muriwaqa, were convicted of the unlawful possession of illicit drugs contrary to section 5 (a) of the Illicit Drugs Control Act, 2004.

They were found in possession of 49.9 kilograms of cocaine worth AUD $15 million (FJD $23 million) in Vuda in July 2015.

They were sentenced on 29 April 2016 to 14 year’s imprisonment with a non-parole period of 12 years.

However the State appealed against their lenient sentence.

The State also requested the Court of Appeal to lay down sentencing guidelines for all hard drugs such as cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine and submitted that the sentence should be primarily based on the quantity of drugs rather than the role of individual offenders.

The Court of Appeal also said that the sentencing court should consider an appropriate fine in addition to the imprisonment as permitted under section 5 of the Illicit Drugs Control Act 2004 depending on the quantity involved, nature of the act and the degree of involvement of the accused.

Abourizk and Muriwaqa must now serve 20 years (instead of the original 12years) before they are eligible for parole.

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