Oct 20, 2017 Last Updated 8:27 AM, Oct 20, 2017

Small islands BIG secrets

Leaked documents reveal billions in bribes, tax dodging

TEN different Pacific Island states have been linked with billions of dollars in shady offshore banking and tax haven deals, in two major media exposes. Global attention focused late last month on UnaOil, an energy services company linked with major players in the west, and suppliers in the Middle East – with paperwork routed through the Marshall Islands.

The first expose, a joint investigation by Fairfax media and Huffington Post headlined as the “world’s biggest bribe scandal” – has prompted police investigations in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia. Then, early this month, a separate investigation exposed Mossack Fonseca, a shadowy company with links to Pacific states including the Marshalls, as well as New Zealand and Australia.

The company was investigated by ICIJ, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, in a leak of 11 million documents first given to German newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung. “The data shows that Mossack Fonseca worked with more than 14,000 banks, law firms, company incorporators and other middlemen to set up companies, foundations and trusts for customers,” ICIJ states in its expose.

Showing company deals dating back to 1975 up to as late as December 2015, ICIJ this month stated it would publish all the documents, some 2.5 terabytes in size, next month. As many as 376 journalists across more than 100 news outlets have been working on the files for nearly a year, ...

Clinton emails show disquiet over US corruption, incompetence

CORRUPTION, neocolonialism and incompetence. Those sorts of attacks usually come from critics of the United States but the latest release of emails from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shows similar concerns, this time shared by career diplomats. Highlighted by Wikileaks last month, the documents were released on 31st January 2016 and join 39 other collections of leaked documents, along with those released under Freedom of Information requests, such as the Clinton emails.

Individually, the emails may seem less than explosive. Taken together, they paint a picture of a global giant with little control over its own processes, let alone its corporate counterparts. One example sees a leading US diplomat attack the role of an oil giant in the corruption of Papua New Guinea politics, the emails published by Wikileaks show.

“Exxon’s natural gas project is estimated to yield a billion a year for PNG but will the income ever benefit the people?”, asked Melanne Vervee, the Ambassadorat-Large for Global Women’s Issues for the former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, on 1st June 2011. “There are so many challenges here and one can hope this place doesn’t become cursed by its resources like DRC [Democratic Republic of Congo] etc because of corruption and lack of accountable govt.” 

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THEY came from the north, the South and the islands of New Caledonia. Delegates from the Front de Libération Nationale Kanak et Socialiste (FLNKS) gathered at Ko We Kara on 5-6 March, for the first congress of New Caledonia’s independence coalition in more than two years. Over two days, FLNKS leaders and delegates debated a range of pressing issues: the looming referendum on self-determination in 2018; chaos in the country’s nickel industry; and how to address the social crisis caused by unemployment and an influx of French migrants after the 2008 global financial crisis.

Above all, the Congress focussed on the challenge of uniting the independence movement at a time of significant differences on the way forward. Despite media predictions of a split within the independence coalition, the FLNKS Congress came out with a united resolution, reaffirming the objective of “leading the country to full sovereignty after 2018.” The FLNKS, founded in 1984, is currently a coalition of four pro-independence parties.

Union Calédonienne (UC) is one of the oldest political parties in the Pacific, established in 1953 but adopting a pro-independence stand in 1977 under its charismatic leader, the late Jean-Marie Tjibaou. The other major force in the FLNKS is the Parti de Libération Kanak (Palika), which grew out of the radical youth movement Foulards Rouges during the 1970s.

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A tale of two presidents

After decades of campaigning for independence in French Polynesia, Oscar Manutahi Temaru has announced he will stand for election as French President in 2017. Temaru’s electoral bid comes as France’s current President François Hollande made a flying visit in February to French Polynesia and Wallis and Futuna, to reinforce France’s strategic role in the islands region.

Hollande’s presidential visit to the Pacific will be followed by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who is scheduled to visit New Caledonia between 10-13 March. Valls’ trip follows the recent Committee of Signatories to the Noumea Accord, held in Paris in early February. For someone who has fought against French colonialism since the 1970s, it may seem strange that Oscar Temaru is seeking to buy into next year’s French elections.

Temaru served as President of French Polynesia on five occasions between 2004 and 2013, but has never campaigned for the top job in Paris (indeed, Temaru’s pro-independence party Tavini Huiraatira called for a boycott of the 2004 French presidential campaign). Speaking to Islands Business from Tahiti, Temaru explained: “Our aim is not to win in France, but to win a majority of votes in French Polynesia in 2017.”

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ANY minister of backbenchers who wish to desert Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare in late 2015 would be forcefully bought back by former militants. “Or if they could not find the Minister or Backbencher, then they will go to his or her home and kidnap his wife or children,” Leader of the Independent Group and former Prime Minister Dr. Derek Sikua said this in a chilling revelation of what he believes was the main reason behind the controversial payment of $3million cash to former members of now disbanded Malaita Eagles Force (MEF).

Dr. Derek also alleged the use of guns being mentioned if the need arises for Sogavare to hold on to power at the helm of Solomon Islands politics. He claimed the $3million payment to former MEF members was made to keep a promise PM Sogavare made to former militants. He alleged the payment was made in return for the strengthening of his (Sogavare’s) government during the recent political instability. “I am of the view that the decision to make cash payment to some former MEF militants by the PM and the DCC Government was a knee-jerk reaction to a calculated move orchestrated by the PM himself around late October or early November last year...

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