Kiwi soldiers were high on prescription drugs during active mission in Fiji

The HMNZS Canterbury unloading in Suva following its arrival in Fiji.
SGT SAM SHEPHERD/NZDF

The HMNZS Canterbury unloading in Suva following its arrival in Fiji.

New Zealand soldiers bought a cocktail of prescription drugs, got high, and then tried to hide their offending while on an active mission last year. 

So many pills were bought by the men that a senior military official was concerned they were planning to smuggle them back to New Zealand. 

The details of the drug taking have come to light after documents were released under the Official Information Act. 

The damage left by cyclone Winston, which caused widespread carnage on the Island nation.
SUPPLIED

The damage left by cyclone Winston, which caused widespread carnage on the Island nation.

The four soldiers purchased the drugs from a local pharmacy in Suva, taking them on board HMNZS Canterbury while helping with the clean-up of Cyclone Winston in Fiji in 2016. 

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An internal investigation launched by the New Zealand Defence Force just days after the offending uncovered the drug taking, and the measures the men had undergone to hide the pills and their offending. 

Military helicopters transport supplies from the HMNZS Canterbury.
ANDY JACKSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Military helicopters transport supplies from the HMNZS Canterbury.

It found that after the drugs were purchased without a prescription, two of the soldiers had hidden them in a leather bible case which they then placed in a cyclone damaged house.

Another of the soldiers stashed some pills in the light above their bed, and another hid pills in the rubble of a ruined church. 

The group were only caught when their commanding officers noticed their abnormal behaviour – which included one soldier attacking a table with a machete. 

Other colleagues on board noticed they were behaving abnormally, one of the soldiers was reported to be 'flipping out'.

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Since then, four of the soldiers have been discharged from the armed services. A fifth was found not guilty at a summary trial last year.

According to the documents, the four soldiers left the ship and went to a local pharmacy while HMNZS Canterbury was docked at Suva in March, 2016. 

Based on information released from the investigation one of the four was of a higher rank to the rest. 

During the investigation over 100 pills in total were seized, including Valium, tramadol, amitriptyline and Viagra. 

After purchasing the pills, the men returned to the ship where they each ingested different amounts of Valium, a prescription drug in New Zealand and Fiji, to get high.

When questioned by an investigator, one of the soldiers hid his phone from officials in an attempt to cover up the offending. 

It is believed the phone held a picture of Valium crushed up next to a rolled up dollar bill, as noted in the documents released from the investigation.

The extent of one of the soldier's lying was summed up in the notes by Commander Simon Rooke. 

"I have spent 25 years watching and talking to sailors in various situations and consider I'm pretty good at smelling a lie, and he stunk of it." 

Rooke was also concerned the men may have been trying to smuggle some of the drugs back to New Zealand – something the men denied, according to the files. 

Military expert Paul Buchanan said the fact a soldier of a higher rank took part in the offending was concerning. 

"That might be someone as low ranking as a corporal, but that indicates at the lower end there were failings of leadership. That has got to be a serious worry to at least the part of the army these people were serving in," he said. 

"It is very, very serious offending." 

Buchanan said it would be concerning if the offending was reflective of a larger drug problem in the military.

"The NZDF has to address this seriously." 

The NZDF wasn't available for comment.

 - Sunday Star Times

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