Queries in Solomons over missing beche de mer
An anti-corruption group in Solomon Islands says police have to put more effort into finding out what happened to a valuable, but illegal consignment of beche de mer.
Transparency Solomon Islands is asking what has happened to millions of dollars of confiscated beche de mer.
More than one and a half tons of the marine product from Ontong Java were seized by police and fisheries officials late last year and placed in a Ministry of Fisheries warehouse.
But it was later removed, possibly with the connivance of Members of Parliament.
Transparency Solomon Islands Daniel Fenua told Don Wiseman that police need to give greater priority to investigating what happened.
DANIEL FENUA: Police conducted an investigation on this issue but since then we have not about the status of the investigation.
DON WISEMAN: There is no sign of just what happened to this one point six tons of beche de mer or who the ministers were who supposedly authorised its removal.
DF: Yes that's right. At this point of time I followed up with one of the officials in the Ministry of Fisheries and they did a follow up on the case, what happened - it's already been referred to police. And then the police they came out recently saying there are other priorities they are focussing on but they also - one of the priorities they are focussing on is this beche de mer case.
DW: What are they actually doing though? Are they doing anything or not?
DF: Well as you have heard there was a recent issue of almost like a riot in the Solomons and all the resources are being committed to sort out this issue and the acting commissioner was not really clear when she mentioned that this would be one of the priorities [the missing beche de mer] but all they resources are committed to sort out what has happened recently.
DW: What does Transparency Solomon Islands want to see happen?
DF: We have seen that there have been huge allegations of corruption redolent on the beche de mer industry and there are a number of issues involved but what is being undermined is the harvesting and the processing and the legal exportation and we have heard of allegations of buyers who actually have very good connections with the Government, and the investigator, like the police, while they are trying their best it sounds like some of them are involved in the whole industry, so we think that there is a huge amount of money involved it should be one of the priorities that the Government is dedicated to making sure that whoever is involved should have been prosecuted and investigated thoroughly. But that is not the case at the moment I think from what the comments raised by the police commissioner. If we look at the issue carefully we can see that our laws have been violated in terms of the illegal harvesting and the product was already confiscated by the police and stationed within the property and removed from the state property. So I think this should be one of the priorities where police should focus on.
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