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Exclusive: Mass arrests of Chinese nationals in Tonga on gambling and firearms charges

Twenty-six Chinese nationals have appeared in court in Tonga on gambling and firearms charges.

The arrests come as the Pacific grapples with widespread transnational crime, with New Zealand backing efforts for urgent action.

The Kingdom's drugs enforcement task-force made the mass arrests.

In a separate police raid, 10 high-powered weapons and 20,000 bullets were seized.

Samoa's Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi, says it's an issue affecting all of the Pacific.

"The major problem affecting all of us is our capacity to detect criminals coming into our countries and also security on movements of drugs between countries," he says.

The drug trade in a growing number of Pacific countries is driven by criminals deported from the US, Australia and New Zealand.

"They deport them to the region, that's where the problems arise and so we need really as leaders to look at the problem in depth and work out how to address them," says Cook Island's Prime Minister, Henry Puna.

The Cook Islands is developing its own national security policy strengthening its economy and borders.

"We have been looking at new sources for labourers to bring into our country to service our growing economy so the need to be vigilant in terms of border control is very critical," says Mr Puna.

Tonga, facing a meth crisis, has asked the Pacific Forum for help with a national drugs policy. There are also calls to form a regional drug enforcement agency.

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A special taskforce has also seized more than 30kgs of the drug in a wide-ranging operation. Source: 1 NEWS

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is keen to support the efforts.

"If we need to put a little more energy behind it I'd be very willing to do that because it affects us all. We are increasingly seeing transnational crime so I'd be happy to support that," she says.


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New Zealand is backing efforts for urgent action in the Pacific on trans-national crime. Source: 1 NEWS