VANUATU GETS QUESTIONABLE RUBY GIFT

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PORT VILA, Vanuatu (January 18, 2001 - Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat)---Vanuatu's financial woes may soon disappear if its Honorary Consul in Thailand has anything to do with it.

Consul Amarendra Nath Ghosh, an Indian businessman, has reportedly offered the Vanuatu government a precious ruby stone worth US$ 175 million.

It’s just one of many gifts that Ghosh has given to the Vanuatu government.

Vanuatu Trading Post publisher Marc Neil-Jones says the gift seems "dicey" because no one has been able to actually verify its value.

"The rock was smuggled from Burma to Singapore," he said. "Concerns arise that if the Vanuatu government does get involved in this that they need to make sure everything is above board."

The gift is questionable because the customs declaration for the ruby was only US$ 40,000 for customs purposes, Neil-Jones said. That’s far less than its original reported value.

"The prime minister has indicated that the country could benefit from this. There is a supposed buyer from a Hong Kong-based company involved in jewelry who has offered to purchase it for US$ 175 million over 10 years.

"This is good news for the Vanuatu government provided we see the money and provided everything is above board on its valuation," he said.

Neil-Jones questions why a businessman would just give away such a valuable stone free of charge to the Vanuatu government.

For additional reports from Radio Australia/Pacific Beat, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia/Pacific Beat.

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