Victims of conman still unpaid, 10 years after Supreme Court ordered Vt 10M returned

A Tanna chief complains the services of justice are not reaching his people. The Iata versus Hocten Supreme Court case required a payment of Vt 10 million for persons swindled by one Michael Hocten (a family name that has been in the news again more recently) to pay some ten million vatu a decade ago. Not one vatu has yet been received by those owed.

Thompson Marango of Daily Post has another crime story on Read the rest of this entry »

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Vt 21 million missing from EU-funded energy project on Ambae

European Union flag. Photo: Håkan Dahlström/Flickr Creative Commons

Daily Post‘s page 1 headline today: “Investigation Demanded… Ambae EU aid project scandal gets attention of Euro-MPs”. Vt 21 million of the funds for the the EU-ACP Copra Oil Energy Generation Project on Ambae have allegedly been embezzled or mis-spent. Read the rest of this entry »


Drugs, arms, racketeering: the dark side of Vanuatu’s tax haven

It is the worst-kept secret of tax havens around the world — the vast amounts of money being laundered through them on behalf of organised crime syndicates, narcoterrorists, totalitarian states and arms dealers as well as run-of-the-mill tax avoiders. The Tax Justice Network, an international group opposed to tax havens, estimates that about US$11.5 trillion worth of assets are held offshore in tax havens—a third of all global wealth—all beyond the oversight of tax authorities and law enforcement.

At a Bangkok airport, Thai police officers and soldiers found 30 tonnes of war weaponry in a cargo plane on its journey from North Korea to Iran. Photo: AP

At a Bangkok airport, Thai police officers and soldiers found 30 tonnes of war weaponry in a cargo plane on its journey from North Korea to Iran. Photo: AP

Vanuatu’s tax haven is not immune, as this article published on the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’s website in 2011 reveals. The article reminds us of the past exploits of Epi MP Robert Bohn Jr.:

On December 11, 2009, a former Soviet air force transport plane flying from North Korea to Iran stopped to refuel in Bangkok. The flight listed its cargo as spare parts for oil-drilling equipment. Instead police found 30 tonnes of explosives, rocket-propelled grenades and components for surface-to-air missiles, all being transported in breach of United Nations sanctions.

Three months later in a Miami courtroom, the U.S. Department of Justice revealed the country’s largest money-laundering scheme involving billions of dollars from Mexican drug lords.

Then, last April, documents emerged in London concerning Russia’s largest tax fraud, an alleged $230 million heist that led to the untimely deaths of four people and threatens to damage the Russian government.

The story behind the three events is many degrees stranger than fiction, but it includes one common element – a number of shell companies associated with 68-year-old Queensland businessman Geoffrey Taylor or members of his family.

Shell companies – that is, corporations with no apparent operations, no apparent employees and no apparent physical assets – are used by those who register them for a range of nefarious activities around the world.

Taylor’s immersion in and knowledge of the world of tax havens appears to stem from his many years working in Vanuatu, a small, earthquake-prone, tax-haven island [sic] in the south Pacific Ocean, about 1750 kilometres from Australia. Taylor operated from the capital, Port Vila, which put in its proper perspective is about the same size as Goulburn.

From 1997 until 2002 Taylor served as vice-president of European Bank, a Vanuatu-based company that was no stranger to controversy. In 1999, U.S. authorities accused the bank of accepting millions of dollars in deposits that turned out to be the proceeds of a massive credit card fraud.

In a separate action, a former director of the bank, Robert Bohn, was later convicted of racketeering in the US for his part in an alleged $100 million lottery scam that included Australians among its victims. Though there is no suggestion Taylor was involved in any illegality, throughout 2000 he was busy offering his services to sharemarket-listed firms in Australia in preparation for his eventual relocation to Southport in Queensland.

The full article, which was originally published in Australian newspaper The Canberra Times, can be found at this link: Inside the shell: Drugs, arms and tax scams.


Vanuatu daily news digest | 11 January 2013

Confidence tricksters posing as agents for the seasonal worker schemes in New Zealand and Australia have duped people out of Vt 11 million, reports the Daily Post on its front cover today. The two alleged fraudsters, identified only as Mele area residents “Tom” and “Rosie” may have collected as much as VT 11 million from ni-Vanuatu who believed the two to be agents for New Zealand’s Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme and Australia’s Seasonal Worker Program (SWP). Daily Post does not tell us whether the alleged fraudsters have been charged with an offence, but notes that the penalty for such an offence is a pitiful vt100,000 and/or three months imprisonment. Labour Commissioner Lionel Kaluat appeals to members of the public to check with the Labour Department’s Employment Services Unit on 29937 to confirm if they are approved agents before handing over any money.

Unfortunately, despite the prominent position given by the Daily Post to this story, it fails to tell us who the legitimate agents for the two schemes are. According to workreadyvanuatu.com, the official website for both the Australian and NZ schemes, the approved agents are:

RSE

  • Daniel Dempsey, Empower Workforce Recuitment
  • Stanley Alick, Melanesian Business Estates and Consultant Services

SWP

  • Daddley Wisil, Siltan Seasonal Workers Solution
  • Annette Mial, Sunbeam Seasonal Workers Vanuatu

Full details for the agents can be found on the Work Ready Vanuatu website.

 

FM Station Capital 107 will continue to broadcast, it says, while management issues are sorted out with Government. Prime Minister Sato Kilman announced yesterday the station must close as it had not paid its licence fees for 2011 and 2012. The station is continuing to operate with legal advice, “owing to their commitment to their listeners.”

The Minister of Fisheries is extending the ban on bêche-de-mer (sea cucumber) harvesting until January 2018 on the recommendation of the Fisheries Department. Director Moses Amos says that even after five years of harvesting bans, many species are still not reproducing well, so the ban must be extended a further five years.


Vanuatu daily news digest | 24 November 2012

Four new cases of HIV in Vanuatu is the Daily Post’s headline today. The new cases have only been reported since November last year, a sudden rise in reported cases. Between 2002 and 2010 there were five cases, two fatal. Director of Public Health Dr Len Tarivonda emphasized the need to respect patient confidentiality. His main message is that people need to be careful how they conduct their sexual relationships and to use abstinence and contraception.

Daily Post today has two Chinese nationals fined over phony Vanuatu passports. Two women of a group of ten entering Vanuatu were found to have phony Vanuatu passports and were detained and fined just vt250,000 each, half the maximum provided for by law. Our Government is anxious to promote migration to Vanuatu through the Vanuatu Financial Services Commission and Vanuatu Investment Promotion Authority in Hong Kong. A group of ten women from Hong Kong travelling to New Zealand calls in via Vanuatu— an expensive detour, and why? And why do they need Vanuatu passports—fake or not—for the rest of the journey? And who is manufacturing these fake passports and why?

An interview with Edward Natapei in Daily Post says the 2012 general elections were the worst ever. We do seem to be getting more of the same almost immediately, as in the phony passports story. Are we destined for a replay of the last couple of years all over again — and for another four years?


Vanuatu daily news digest | 13 November 2012

Serious allegations concerning illegal practices at the Department of Lands have emerged in Daily Post today along with news of the break-in which kept the Land Registry section closed yesterday. A notice at the Registry yesterday said it was closed “due to thief break-in”. The thief appears to have been looking for certain land records.

In another twist, maybe or maybe not related, it is also alleged that the Principal Registry Officer of the Department of Lands is responsible for the removal and destruction of land lease documents, after land owners have claimed they are receiving too little for their land sales. The land is then resold, the source claims. Mortgage documents in the files are also burned, it is claimed.

The Independent newspaper at the weekend said that the caretaker Government had reached an out-of-court agreement concerning the detained four-master mega-yacht, Phocea. Sources said an amount of more than vt4,000,000 had been agreed as an out-of-court settlement between the yacht’s owner Vu Anh Quan and Government to enable Phocea to leave the country. Caretaker Finance Minister Moana Carcasses said the release of Phocea is a civil case. However, Daily Post sought legal advice on the matter and with the forged documentation found on board, then personnel and the owner of the ship should be able to be charged with forgery — a criminal matter. Read the rest of this entry »


Breaking news: Clarence Marae refused bail in Australia in tax fraud case

Clarence Marae, the aide to Prime Minister Sato Kilman who was arrested in Australia while transitting through Sydney airport in April, was refused bail in Brisbane Magistrate’s Court on Friday.

The Crown Prosecutor successfully argued that he was a flight risk because he had no link to Australia and the Vanuatu Government was unlikely to return him if he fled Australian justice.

“Magistrate Anne Thacker said it was concerning that the island nation’s attorney-general had refused to approve Marae’s extradition when the Australian government first requested it in 2008”, reports The Australian newspaper today. Thacker said he was “an unacceptable risk of failing to appear“.

Marae is charged with one count of conspiring to defraud the Australian Government of AUD4.5 million (vt424,000,000) in taxes.

His committal hearing will take place in March 2013.