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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (October 27, 200 - PIDP/CPIS)--The American Samoa company which is at the center of an alleged money laundering investigation in Samoa, does not have a business license to operate in Apia, according to Samoa’s State Solicitor George Latu.

Latu responded to inquiries regarding whether Private International Development Banc of American Samoa is authorized to conduct business in Samoa, where the company deposited $4 million into an ANZ Bank account.

The company’s $4 million is part of the money seized by the Samoa government on behalf of U.S. authorities who are investigating a Ponzi scheme conducted by three mainland promoters.

"The company wanted to set up a bank in Samoa but they were refused a license," Latu said.

Latu decline to comment on Governor Tauese Sunia’s radio comments on Monday, in which Tauese recalled a conversation with Samoa’s Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi.

The governor said he learned that PIDB officials tried to set up a financial company in Apia, but were unable to do so because they only had $800,000 at the time. (Samoa requires initial capital of $2 million.)

Tauese also revealed that the company needed an "umbrella" company to satisfy American laws because the money came from the U.S and company officials returned with a new set-up involving a Singapore company.

At that point, four trust fund accounts were set up in a bank in Apia under the Singapore company’s name.

Latu said he could not comment on the information made public by the governor "but all we know is that the money came from Seattle to here (Apia)."

"The funds seized by the government remained frozen," said Latu. "We are now working on returning the money to U.S. authorities."

The American Samoa-based Samoa Post newspaper reported recently that PIDB plans to sue the Samoa government and the ANZ Bank for $1 billion.

"We have heard about the lawsuit, but we have not been served yet," said Latu.

On Wednesday, former cabinet member Emma Randall wrote in a letter to the Samoa Post editor that this matter is part of a cover-up scheme, as Governor Tauese Sunia publicly admitted he does not recall signing the business license application for PIDB.

Tauese in a paid radio talk show flatly denied any "cover-up scheme."

The Governor earlier said that the signature is a "mystery to him."

The Governor then said that "I signed it and it’s my signature, but I could not recall signing it" and reminded the radio audience again that he was off-island at the time.

In the meantime, PIDB’s President William Cravens, who lives in San Diego, California, is quoted by the Samoa News as saying that the company is the culmination of a 25-year old vision to provide financing for economic development on a regional basis.

He said the "bank" would be privately financed and operated on a for-profit basis. When things are cleared up, Cravens said he would be visiting the territory to get the ball rolling.

He also confirmed appearing before a U.S. grand jury in Seattle, Washington to testify on the large scale financial fraud of the money. He said he appeared as a witness before the grand jury but not as a suspect.

Cravens further denied that PIDB loaned thousands of dollars to an unknown member of the Samoa Parliament as reported by Apia-based Newsline.

He said the company does not do business in Apia.

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