More than 100 packages of cocaine have washed up on the shores of Fiji’s islands in the past few months. They first appeared in the isles of Lau—31 packages, weighing a total of 40 kilograms and valued at about AU$20 million, marooned on a remote white beach. Then, within a fortnight, nine more appeared.
Dozens upon dozens have been brought in by the tides within the past six weeks alone. And the area of distribution is growing: spreading from the Lau island group to Bua, Taveuni and then Yasawa. Police suspect even more could be littered throughout the deserted islands further afield: all of it pure white coke, and all of it stamped with the same mysterious sigil of a buffalo in a grassy pasture.
But no one seems to know where it’s coming from.
Fiji Police Commissioner Brigadier General Sitiveni Qiliho confirmed this week that a joint investigation is underway with Australian authorities and the Fiji Navy to determine the original source of the drugs. So far, police efforts have been largely community-driven: reliant on the good will of honest civilians who just so happened to find a brick of cocaine.
While authorities have publicly urged anyone who finds a parcel to resist the temptation of opening it, several packages had already been meddled with by the time they were handed over to police, The Fiji Times reports.
“We urge members of the public not to try to open because it is dangerous to do so," police spokesperson Ana Naisoro told the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation. "This is cocaine in its purest form as we’ve mentioned before so their safety is also our concern.”
But Police Commissioner Qiliho insists that the cocaine—which he suspects may have been dumped in the ocean as long as a year ago—was never meant to end up in Fiji.
“It was dumped out there at sea destined for some other place,” he said. “So we are working hard on finding the spot where this could have been done… We are working with our Australian counterparts with the capabilities that they have, for us to further investigate that area of the ocean where we think things might have been dumped.
“We will continue to do that because our analysis shows, indicates to us, that there’s more (packages) that could be floating out there.”
So what do everyday Fijians make of all this?
"People in Fiji are just curious as to who these drugs belong to and why Fiji," explained Akosita Talei, a reporter with the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation, via email. "It's very scary considering the amount of drugs that have been discovered within a period of three months alone, and the fact that it's washed up on so many maritime islands is more scary.
"How long has it been there? Is this new or has this been going on the past few years? It just raises so many questions."
Similarly marked packages were seized in Tonga mere weeks before they started popping up in Fiji. If Qiliho’s suspicions are on the mark, then it looks like the bundles of coke could be travelling hundreds of kilometres in all directions on the whimsy of the ocean’s currents.
Given another month or two, the bricks might even start washing up in Australia...