5 May 2008

Vanuatu's top law official defends giving warrants for raids by Australian police

7:16 pm on 5 May 2008

Vanuatu's Attorney general has defended the warrants issued for Australian Federal Police to search businesses in Port Vila last week.

In a joint operation with local police, the AFP targetted offices of accounting firm PKF and two other companies.

The raids were part of the AFP's Project Wickenby, an international operation to attack abusive tax haven schemes linked to Vanuatu.

However concern has been raised by legal representatives of one of the men under investigation in the operation that there was no legal basis for the search warrants.

The government has also voiced concern that it wasn't informed about the police operation beforehand.

But the Attorney general Ishmael Kalsakau says the sensitivity of the case meant there was little disclosure.

"It was a mutual assistance request made by the Australian Attorney general to the Vanuatu Attorney general to consider an application made to the Supreme Court and warrants were issued. The matter's still pending progression in the court. It's a simple request made under a simple procedure made under legislation."

Attorney general Ishmael Kalsakau