No leniency for green yaqona thieves: Police

Green yaqona. Picture: FT FILE

NO leniency will be shown to green yaqona thieves and buyers on Taveuni as perpetrators will now be charged with theft.

Responding to claims from farmers on the island that the rise in green yaqona theft had been fuelled by the lack of regulations in place for perpetrators, Northern divisional police commander Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Eparama Waqa said police could now test soil samples from stolen plants.

SSP Waqa said confiscated stolen plants would be sent to their forensic units for testing before they lay charges against perpetrators.

“Therefore, to say that perpetrators cannot be charged is not true because they will be charged with theft and we will not hesitate to do this,” he said.

“We are warning thieves and those thinking of stealing green plants to think twice before proceeding to carry out their dirty work because they will be found and taken to task.

“Taveuni is the only station in the North currently with a police canine unit and I have spoken to our men to use them in assisting with their investigations.

“The ban on the buying and selling of green yaqona on Taveuni is currently in place and we are asking people to adhere to the ban.”

Overseas exporter and Delaivuna farmer Abhishek Sapra claimed on average, farmers easily lost $6000 to $8000 from thefts considering the current prices of yaqona.

Mr Sapra said two weeks ago, thieves allegedly stole yaqona from his farm on two different occasions, making away with 30 seven-month-old plants valued at about $500 in total.

“Yaqona is making a difference in the lives of rural dwellers here on the island as they earn thousands from the sale of grog, but we do not understand why nothing is being done to address the issue.”

Meanwhile, district officer Taveuni Dausiga Nakaora said they met farmers on Tuesday this week to strategise ways of addressing the issue with police.

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