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NEWS RELEASE December 7, 2001


The Nauru Government has tightened legislation against money laundering, sending a clear message that illegal international financial transactions will not be tolerated.

Chief Secretary Mathew Batsiua today said Nauru authorities would investigate any credible evidence that Nauru had been used by the Russian mafia, or other crime organizations, to launder money.

"We will also cooperate fully with any investigation by international authorities," he said.

Amendments to Nauru’s anti-money laundering legislation passed in Parliament Thursday better define offshore banking and meet the requirements of the Financial Action Task Force on money laundering (FATF), which had threatened sanctions against Nauru.

The FATF is part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Mr. Batsiua said the Government would not allow Nauru to be "used as a pawn in any money laundering schemes."

"We will enforce the legislation to the fullest extent of the law," Mr. Batsiua said.

He said penalties under the stricter legislation included 12 months imprisonment or $10,000 fine or both. Furthermore all related properties would be seized and may be forfeited.

"The Nauru Government has fulfilled its commitment to the international community on this issue. I now expect the FATF to withdraw its threat to impose sanctions and allow Nauru to get on with its essential economic recovery programs."

Meanwhile, Mr. Batsiua said the Nauru Government would discuss a range of issues with Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer during his coming visit.

"I would expect the asylum seeker program to be high on the agenda," he said. "Although a request for Nauru to take more asylum seekers has been flagged, a decision has not been made."

For further information: Hamish McLean: Australia: 0409 840823/International +61 409 840823

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