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25 February 2013 - Media release

Renewed collaboration with INTERPOL will boost security in South Pacific, Secretary General tells Tonga authorities

NUKUALOFA, Tonga – On his first official visit to Tonga during his latest mission to the South Pacific, INTERPOL Secretary General Ronald K. Noble underlined the need for the country to become an active member of the world police body and reconnect with INTERPOL after years of disengagement.

At meetings with Acting Prime Minister Samiu Vaipulu, Police Minister Siosifa Tu'utafaiva and Police Commissioner Grant O'Fee, Mr Noble said that by renewing their collaboration INTERPOL and Tonga had an essential role to play together to keep citizens in the country and region safe from transnational crimes such as drug trafficking and money laundering.

With the three high-ranking Tongan officials reaffirming the importance of remaining a part of INTERPOL, Acting Prime Minister Vaipulu said that Tonga’s continued membership of INTERPOL would help Tonga fight drug traffickers, international criminals, and support Tonga's police build capacity to fight emerging cybercrime threats.

Minister of Police Tu'utafaiva and Commissioner of Police O'Fee stressed how INTERPOL needed to make sure that all countries in the region were connected to INTERPOL in an efficient and cost effective way, and asked INTERPOL to identify ways to reduce the financial pressure on Tonga and other countries facing the same situation.

Commending Tonga’s authorities for their strong words of support and for their desire to link all law enforcement to INTERPOL's tools and services, Secretary General Noble said: “INTERPOL makes it possible for any country where there is the will to cooperate internationally to enhance collective security.”

With terrorists, transnational organized criminals and drug traffickers using stolen passports to move undetected from one country to the next, Mr Noble recalled how in November 2012 Tongan authorities discovered a man’s body and 200kg of cocaine in a grounded boat off the coast of Tonga. The drug-filled vessel was reportedly on its way from South America, police said.

"Any country like Tonga that wishes to develop its economy, including tourism, cannot afford the risk of not having instant access to INTERPOL's tools and services to protect citizens and connect the dots when crimes occur,” said the Head of INTERPOL.

“This is why INTERPOL has agreed to reconnect Tonga to INTERPOL's global communications system and to put in place INTERPOL's state of the art passport screening system so that real criminals can be identified in real time,” added Mr Noble.

Mr Noble is visiting Tonga as part of the latest mission he is undertaking to the South Pacific (22 February - 1 March) to enhance regional and international police cooperation against transnational crime, build capacity and extend the use of INTERPOL’s global law enforcement tools, services and operational support infrastructure to officers on the frontlines.

One of Mr Noble’s previous missions to the region included a visit to Samoa in October 2009 shortly after the country joined the world police body.

During his latest mission to the South Pacific Mr Noble is also encouraging adoption of INTERPOL’s Travel Document which to date has been recognized by 59 countries. It is intended to enable INTERPOL officials and police to travel internationally on official INTERPOL business without requiring a visa when assisting in transnational investigations or on urgent deployments.