FORMER NIUE FINANCE MINISTER COE: "I WARNED ABOUT OFFSHORE BANKING"

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ALOFI, Niue (February 4, 2001 - Niue Economic Review/PINA Nius Online)---Niue's former Minister of Finance Terry Coe said he warned the government several years ago about getting involved in offshore banking operations and that cost him the finance portfolio.

"I expressed my opposition to offshore banking publicly and got the sack," said Coe.

The 57-year-old New Zealander, who was previously principal of Niue High School before entering politics, said he was advised by New Zealand and British security agencies to keep clear of offshore banking. It was fraught with problems and abuse by international criminal elements, he said.

"But there was a lot of pressure from several government officials to introduce offshore banking in an urgent bid to improve the revenue earning capacity of Niue," said Coe. He is a top polling common roll member of the Legislative Assembly’s Opposition faction.

Another critic of offshore banking was the former Australian Catholic priest at the Niue mission, the late Father Kevin Glover, who was ordered to leave the island after public criticism of the government.

Commenting on a statement from Premier Sani Lakatani, who last week attacked U.S. banks for placing sanctions on money transfers to Niue, Coe said he had no problems with the international business company registration operated by Mossack Fonseca out of Panama.

"That venture involves registering companies and is no different from those operated out of a large number of well known countries around the world who have no problems.

"There has been criticism leveled at Mossack Fonseca, but they also warned me when I was Minister of Finance to steer clear of offshore banking," said Coe.

There are two distinct divisions in offshore trading on Niue.

Mossack Fonseca runs a business company’s registry. It also contributes funds to the community. Its last donation was to the Lord Liverpool Hospital.

The Niue Offshore Banking Registry is located in Melbourne, Australia. There is a private agent resident on Niue. The income from offshore banking fees is not listed in the government's budget. Fees are set by a regulation under the Offshore Banking Act of 1994. A Niue Monetary Board headed by Premier Lakatani considers applications for offshore banks.

The Premier claims the U.S. bank sanctions against the transfer of funds are crippling the local economy. This is already in the doldrums after a number of problems involving overseas investments, aid reductions and government overspending, which has rocketed the island's deficit to an all-time high.

Meanwhile, New Zealand's Foreign Minister Phil Goff said he will help Niue try and ascertain what the U.S. banks want it to do in a bid to lift sanctions on U.S. dollar transactions.

Goff said New Zealand has already helped Niue with drawing up anti-laundering legislation and has offered advice on meeting the requirements of the OECD. A financial monitoring unit supported by New Zealand is being set up on Niue.

Niue's Deputy Premier Young Vivian was quoted on Radio New Zealand International as saying it needed advice on international financial transactions and was doing its best to try and ensure there was no money laundering.

New Zealand has also tightened its aid and instead of handing out bulk funding payments is now making quarterly payments in a bid to encourage better accountability and efficiency.

Sources in Niue indicated that the government has been putting pressure on a number of trading operations to make more regular payments into the government coffers.

These included Mossack Fonseca and Asia Pacific Telecommunications, which sub-leases Niue phone lines for live sex calls around the world.

Niue receives about NZ$ 1.2 million (US$ 535,000) a year from IBC fees and around NZ$ 1.5 million (US$ 669,000) from APT leases.

Under the Constitution act of 1974, Niue is a self-governing state in free association with New Zealand. Niueans are New Zealand citizens and have the right of free entry to New Zealand, where most Niueans live.

For additional reports from the Niue Economic Review, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Magazines/Journals/Niue Economic Review.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

 

NIUE VOWS TO TIGHTEN MONEY LAWS

ALOFI, Niue (February 4, 2001 – Radio Australia)---Niue Deputy Premier Young Vivian says his country is committed to meeting international requirements to tighten laws against money laundering, but is struggling to do so given its limited legal resources.

The Polynesian country south of American Samoa has been named in the latest list "non-cooperative jurisdictions" drawn up by the Group of Seven's Financial Action Task Force.

Mr. Vivian said it is in Niue's own interests to satisfy the requirements of the international community.

New Zealand has been asked to assist, as Niue's human resources are very limited. Its permanent population is less than 3,000 persons.

Last week two major U.S. banks imposed a ban on sending money to Niue, citing concerns about money laundering.

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

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