12 May 2003

Solomons banks given protection after threats force their closure

3:30 pm on 12 May 2003

The prime minister of Solomon Islands, Sir Allen Kemakeza, says the country's commercial banks have been given a security cordon after threats last week from the principals of a pyramid scheme.

The Family Charitable Trust, which has been running since April of last year, has been dismissed as a scam by the country's central bank and the commercial banks.

After the threats the banks are closed today, while senior staff from the ANZ bank were flown out of the country at the weekend.

Paul Edwards from the ANZ's head office in Melbourne says the ANZ is likely to be closed for two weeks.

"Clearly there is a climate of lawlessness and intimidation which is associated with it and until such time that it improves and we can guarantee the safety of our staff we'll stay closed. Now that's probably going to be at least a couple of weeks but hopeful the government can take some action on this and we can re-open as soon as possible."

Meanwhile, Sir Allen says he is meeting the banks and police this afternoon.

He says he hopes that they will be persuaded to reopen tomorrow, after a heightening of security and a newly launched police investigation into the principals of the Fund.

Sir Allen agrees that the Fund is a scam.

because there is no such money in the banks or anywhere in the country, or we have not been receiving any confirmation or document to prove that such money is coming - for sure it is a scam