1 May 2008

Cook Islands people being warned about manganese nodule scam

11:25 am on 1 May 2008

The Cook Islands government has warned the public about a campaigner promising people billions of dollars if the offshore manganese nodules are used as collateral on the futures market in New York.

The Sydney-based New Zealander, Bruce Ruatapu Mita, has told a committee in Rarotonga that the government could expect to almost instantly start collecting more than three billion US dollars a week.

The committee abandoned the talks after he failed to provide background information.

Mr Mita, who is back in Australia, is keen to return Rarotonga to present his proposal to traditional leaders telling them they claim ownership of the nodule resource because it lies within the Cook Islands exclusive economic zone.

The deputy prime minister Sir Terepai Maoate has issued a warning to all Cook Islands people living in Australia, New Zealand and locally that the proposal is a scam.

The minister's spokesperson, Flo Syme Buchanan, says the public is being misled.

"Be very very cautious of any such proposals involving our nodules resource, because we do have a committee that's been charged with taking care of this business, it's a committee that's working well, working very carefully and to be careful of people who come with offers that just seem to good to be true."

Flo Syme-Buchanan says she believes some people have already sent substantial sums to Mr Mita in Sydney.