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February 28, 2002

It must be frustrating to for small islands states to be abused so lightly.

According to this story:

"In its annual report card, the Board says New Zealand and many other smaller Pacific island countries are being used more and more as transshipment points for illegal drugs. United Nations information officer Angelique Doueihi said they include the ‘Cook Islands, Marshall Islands and Nauru, just to name a few.'"

This report gives the impression that significant quantities of drugs are flowing through these states.

Another report, however, states:

"In 2001, a number of Pacific islands including the Cook Islands, the Marshall Islands, Nauru and Niue were classified as "uncooperative" by the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering, the board said. If inadequately supervised, offshore financial centres provide those engaged in criminal activity, including drug trafficking, with an opportunity to launder their illicit profits," it warned.


It seems unlikely that large transhipments of drugs pass through these states, given their peripheral position on major trade routes. Neither do I see here any direct evidence that drug money is flowing through offshore financial operations registered in these states; rather the story originates in the concern that an uncooperative behavior could contribute to such flows. I was unable to locate the report that is the source of this story, but the reports I did locate from the UN agency given as the source make it clear that the vast majority of trafficking takes place without passing through the Pacific. It seems that through the news-making process, a potential problem has been turned into a verified fact. Each successive report of a report condenses the information until what is left out seriously distorts what is left in.

Jim Hess Lecturer Department of Anthropology University of California, Irvine Email: 

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