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APIA, Samoa (November 2, 2001 - Samoa Observer/PINA Nius Online)---Samoa has been praised for its leadership in the regional battle against growing transnational crime in the Pacific Islands.

As chair of the South Pacific Chiefs of Police Conference, Samoa's Commissioner Asi Tuataga Blakelock supported the need for commissioners to convince governments to provide more funding to fight crimes that respect no borders.

And delegates praised Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi for his support for these concerns.

Money laundering is an example of transnational crime that is threatening the Pacific, and it was a hot issue at the conference.

People smuggling, money scams, pedophilia on the Internet, and drug transportation are other types of transnational crimes.

"From a Pacific perspective drug trafficking and people smuggling are immediate problems facing the Pacific," Fiji Commissioner Isikia Savua said.

New Zealand's Deputy Commissioner of Police Stephen Long added that people smuggling was affecting many islands in the region.

The conference found that tighter constraints on traditional routes used by these people would cause a drift to the Pacific as a new route for the trade.

The questioned that was raised during the conference was how far were Pacific Islands prepared to go in terms of enforcement. It was resolved in the meeting that regional cooperation was the way to bridge insularity.

Mr. Savua said people smugglers rake in US$ 11 billion each year for this illegal practice.

It was also resolved at the conference that the Pacific Islands are prime targets for money scams, which involved individuals borrowing money from allegedly government institutions with a promise of large profits.

The profits are then never seen and neither are the original loans.

Electronic mail crime was another area of concern, particularly because pedophiles have free access to the Pacific via the Internet.

During the meeting it was resolved that the South Pacific Chiefs of Police Conference would invite the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Hawai‘i branch, to become a member.

Mr. Long said the FBI office Honolulu had a "great pool of resources" to help in matters "we cannot deal with in the Pacific."

Regarding regional cooperation, Mr. Savua said it could not succeed if the chiefs did not have an agreement on issues of regional law enforcement.

Relationships that are built through frequent dealings and meetings promote natural trust among the participants, explained Mr. Long.

For additional reports from the Samoa Observer, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Samoa Observer.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: 

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