Neiao appeared on a charge of knowingly importing prohibited goods without permit and on another charge of erroneous declaration.
On March 25, 2018, Custom officers received an import entry of personal goods from New Zealand. On March 27, 2018 Customs made an inspection request as they were concerned with the insufficient information provided about the contents of the imported goods.
Upon examination, Customs officers found two firearms and 4500 rounds ammunition which were covered with other belongings and were not declared on the import entry documentation provided to Customs.
Customs legal representative Fraser Hawkins advised Judge Potter that a case of such a nature has never been before the Cook Islands Court.
Defence counsel Mark Short in his submission said there was a difference in the way Cook Islanders in the outer islands did things as opposed to those on the main islands.
Short said that one of the firearms was for another family and the ammunition was for the island.
He handed letters of support to Judge Potter stating that Neiao resides on the island of Pukapuka and is a civil servant, farmer, fisherman, a leader in the church, honest, reliable, contributes to the community and has never been in trouble before.
He added that Neiao is married and is a father of five children.
Judge Potter said she had considered a term of imprisonment but took into consideration all that had been said of the defendant and the reality of living in Pukapuka and as an agriculture officer with a regular income.
She sentenced Neiao to pay a fine of $3000 and 12-months’ probation supervision with six-months of community service.
Judge Potter added that she hoped this would be a lesson to those living in the outer islands and the defendant’s community.
On the matter of Mataroa, who represented himself, he was charged for carrying two times the duty free limit of tobacco at the Rarotonga Airport on November 3, last year when he arrived from Auckland, New Zealand.
It is alleged that Customs found 10 blocks of tobacco hidden in his belongings and this was worth $2,150.
Judge Potter asked Mataroa what ability he had to make payment of the $2,150 of reparation.
The defendant responded that he has been trying to look for a job for the last two years and was already paying another debt. He said he did not know how he would make payment of the reparation.
Judge Potter said it was foolish of him to commit such a crime and sentenced him to 18months probation, nine-months of community service and not to leave the Cook Islands without the approval of the High Court. He is to attend any workshop or training advised by Probation Services.
She added that the court may not order reparations where there is no means to pay and Mataroa had no means of paying.