17 Jan 2003

Vanuatu businessman says US charges likely to be thrown out

11:55 am on 17 January 2003

A prominent Vanuatu businessman says the FBI in the US is characterising his bank's normal activities as money laundering.

Tom Bayer, the chairman of a Vanuatu offshore bank, the European Bank, says he is confident 23 charges brought against him and two colleagues will be thrown out.

Robert Bohn, the President and CEO of the bank, is in jail in Tennessee after being arrested in New Orleans two months ago, while Mr Bayer and a former associate Michael Harkin have been indicted on the same charges.

Mr Bayer says the charges come from the bank's links in the mid 1990s with a Barbados company, IDM, which marketed national lotteries overseas.

He says the Bank was unaware of any misrepresentation by IDM, and says the money laundering charges are based on the bank sending US cheques back to the US bank from which they are drawn.

"So the fact that they are saying it's money-laundering, the only way that that can be money-laundering is if we were participating in some fraudulent scheme that was helping the scheme but we have no idea of such a scheme. What we were doing was normal banking business."

Tom Bayer.

Robert Bohn is due for a court hearing in Memphis on March 3rd.