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SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, April 23) – While Fiji is no longer being used as a conduit for money laundering, it remains a money laundering destination, says Fiji Intelligence Unit head Razin Buksh.

This, he says follows a number of cases that Fiji has seen (with one conviction in 2005), or as a result of pending cases that it is currently being investigated, or is currently before the court, or is before the law enforcement agencies.

"I am confidently saying that we are not just at the threat of money laundering but it is a reality in Fiji," he said.

Buksh says in 2006 Fiji had 242 investment applications, totaling FJ$3 billion [US$1.8 billion] with proposed employment of 35,000.

Of this, some 34-investment registration certificates were cancelled by the Fiji Islands.

"That is an alarming number of investment registration certificates actually cancelled after they were issued by the Fiji Tourism Investment Board," he said.

Buksh said this as Government approved the Financial Transaction Reporting Regulations late March with the Financial Transaction Reporting Regulations coming into force on May 1.

Financial institutions will be allowed some time to prepare for its implementation until December 31.

The Financial Transaction Reporting Regulations provides guidance to financial institutions on how to implement the requirements of the Financial Transaction Reporting Act 2004 and includes guidelines on customer identification, risk based implementations, internal control and procedures, monitoring of customers transactions and how to report certain transactions.

The legislation requires all institutions, designated non-financial businesses and professions, lawyers, accountants, real estate agents and other traditional financial institutions and non-bank financial institutions to keep all records.

"If we suspect that some fraudulent person is doing transactions through a real estate agent in Savusavu, maintains an account in Suva and is seeking the legal services of a law firm in Nadi, we would have the same networking because of these requirements that are kept by all these agencies and the other various requirements," Buksh said.

He also highlighted the recent case of an Asian client at a certain bank counter trying to exchange US$25, 000, and when the bank asked for identification records, the person refused to provide sufficient identification documents.

"That was reported as suspicious transaction report because the legislation says and includes attempted transaction as well."

Buksh says that mandatory reporting is required for a transaction that exceeds US$10,000 whether the transaction is in cash, bank checks, travelers' checks, and bank drafts.

All electronic funds transfer transactions will be reportable to the Fiji Intelligence Unit, he added.

"Basically any transaction that you and I will be doing with any of the institutions including transactions with money exchange organizations, if it is done electronically, it would be sitting in the data base of the financial intelligence unit," Buksh pointed out.

"One reporting obligation that I would strongly encourage is the reporting of suspicious transaction reports," Buksh said. "What is suspicious to you may not be suspicious to me. Still it is good to report any unusual transaction, this is what I say."

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