MARSHALL ISLANDS INVESTIGATES DISAPPEARANCE OF OVER $220,000 FROM MAHOELAP

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LOCAL GOVERNMENT

MALOELAP, Marshall Islands (January 25, 2002 – The Marshall Islands Journal)---National police and the Attorney General’s Office are attempting to find out what happened to more than $220,000 of Maloelap Atoll Local Government money.

The funds in question were generated during the mid and late 1990s from a live reef fishing contract and taxes on copra produced on the atoll and paid by Tobolar.

Maloelap Mayor Langmos Hermios asked for police assistance last June 13, saying that the day before he had checked the local government’ s Bank of Marshall Islands and Bank of Guam accounts to find no money in either account.

He provided documents showing that on June 12, 1997 the Hong Kong Pacific Marine Resources Development Company had provided a payment amounting to $156,000 for fish taken from Maloelap.

An accounting provided by Tobolar of quarterly copra tax assessments from 1992-1998 showed that $67,009.43 had been collected for Maloelap.

A month after Hermios’ report, in mid July, the national police transmitted a report to the Attorney General’s office about the matter.

On January 3, 2002, the AG’s office applied to the High Court for a search warrant to access the Maloelap Atoll Local Government accounts at both banks. High Court Chief Justice Charles Henry authorized the searches.

Assistant AG Richard Hickson indicated that the banks are in the process of providing the requested bank statements.

The search warrant request indicates that the information obtained may be used to prosecute the criminal offenses of receiving stolen property, embezzlement and grand larceny.

FISH EARN $156,000

Documents provided to the court show that Maloelap Atoll Local Government received $156,000 from live reef fishing in 1997.

The documents show that 12 tons (24,000 pounds) of marbel cod ("Epinephelus microdon") was caught, for which Maloelap was paid $144,000. This works out to $6 per pound. About 1,100 pounds each of big spot coral trout (Plectopomus sp.) and purple rock cod (Epinephelus spp.) were caught, earning Maloelap $12,000 -- or about $5.45 per pound.

The fish were caught by Pacific Marine Resources Development, a Hong Kong based company.

The Marshall Islands Journal, Box 14, Majuro, Marshall Islands 96960 E-mail: journal@ntamar.com  Subscriptions (weekly): 1 year US $87.00; international $213.00 (air mail).

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