3 Mar 2005

Australia says Nauru may miss out on US$63m from receivers

4:19 pm on 3 March 2005

The Australian Government is casting doubt on whether Nauru will receive about 63 million US dollars that it says it's in line to be paid by receivers.

Australia has also confirmed that its financial advisers are working with Nauru to find out how and why Nauru lost many millions of dollars.

There have been calls for a probe by forensic accountants into how Nauru went from wealth to near poverty over a relatively brief period from the 1970s to about 2000.

This comes as Nauru awaits payment of some 63 million US dollars in surplus funds following the liquidation of its Australian assets -- a payout Australia says isn't certain.

Australia's Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Bruce Billson, says a forensic-accountancy probe is being carried out by Australian experts working under the direction and at the request of the Nauru Government.

He says they're studying financial transactions and where resources and revenue from Nauru may have ended up, as well as the extent of its outstanding liabilities.

But Mr Billson is also casting doubt on whether Nauru will receive 63 million US dollars.

"At this stage it's unclear what the scale of that distribution, if any, might be as in it's important to establish what outstanding liabilities remain, and also to identify whether further forensic accounting work will be needed to pursue any resources that should be available to support Nauruan people and landowners that isn't available because there's some inappropriate behaviour."

Bruce Billson.