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By Michael Field

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (February 2, 2000 - Agence France-Presse)---Carpetbaggers and con men have switched from sailing ships and tramp steamers to the Internet as they hit the Pacific with scams such as declaring independence for a Fijian island.

Success relies on a striking ignorance of the Pacific, with many people unable to pick the difference between Niue and Nauru, Savusavu and Suva or EnenKio and Karitane.

The first four exist but the latter two are fiction, existing only in cyberspace and described by U.S. officials as "entirely fraudulent in intent and practice."

Karitane is the invention of the "ecclesiastical and constitutional sovereignty" of the "Dominion of Melchizedek" (DOM), which says the atoll is in French Polynesia. (See: )

Despite a Pacific wide criminal intelligence exchange and a computer database, Fiji last week gave a visitor’s permit to a convicted Californian fraudster, David Korem, 46, also known as Mark Pedley.

Korem, DOM’s "Head of the House of Elders," went to Rotuma Island and drew up a constitution and declaration of independence from Fiji, which would allow his group to "set up as a state within the state."

"We are aware of the demands for independence from the people of Rotuma for independence," Korem told AFP from California while police were looking for him in Fiji.

"I think the constitution is an excellent one that the people of Rotuma have embraced and I am aware of their demands for independence."

The Kingdom of EnenKio ( ), which is linked to DOM, claims Wake Island in the North Pacific.

Although it exists only as an address on the Internet, it claims it is recognized as a state by the Central African Republic and its "Foreign Minister" Kermit Rydel told AFP the kingdom had signed a deal with Kuwait under which stateless people will become citizens and passport holders of EnenKio.

Rydel and Korem are following a long tradition.

In 1873, Albert B. Steinberger showed up in Samoa claiming to be a U.S. special agent.

Before British blue jackets dragged him away three years later, he had drawn up a constitution and become prime minister. He had no authority for anything, yet his document is echoed in modern Samoa’s constitution.

In 1972 the "Oceanic Life Research Foundation" (OLRF) seized Minerva Reef between New Zealand and Tonga and declared a republic, minting coins. King Taufa‘ahau Tupou IV took 90 prisoners to Minerva, built a landing dock and raised the Tongan flag.

Nevada real estate millionaire Michael Oliver who was behind the OLRF then formed the Phoenix Foundation and tried to finance a secession of Abaco Island in the Bahamas.

That failed and in 1975 he joined with a cult movement, Nagriamel, in the Anglo-French condominium of New Hebrides. In 1980 they launched an insurrection against newly independent Vanuatu, which had to be suppressed by Papua New Guinea after the French and the British refused to intercede.

Tuvalu, just north of Rotuma, was scammed by a carpetbagger who sold them Texas desert just after independence. The U.S. Government eventually got the ‘new state its money back.’

The Pacific Forum, an annual summit of 16 nations, has tried to educate leaders against swallowing offers of instant riches for their economically struggling nations.

A communiqué from the 1997 forum said sovereignty was most at threat from transnational crime and noted "the potential for undesirable financial activities to undermine economic development."

The U.S. State Department’s latest International Narcotics Control Strategy Report warned of the threat posed by offshore financial centers (OFCs). "(It) is now possible for an enterprising jurisdiction anywhere in the world to establish itself as an emerging OFC," the report said.

"The newest OFCs, e.g. Niue and the Marshall Islands, are sprouting in remote areas of the world, such as the Pacific.

"Even more remote, are mere figments of fertile imaginations such as the Dominion of Melchizedek or The Kingdom of EnenKio Atoll, both entirely fraudulent in intent and practice"

Michael Field New Zealand/South Pacific Correspondent Agence France-Presse E-mail:  Phone: (64 21) 688438 Fax: (64 21) 694035 Website: 

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