COOK ISLANDS OFFSHORE BANK UNDER INVESTIGATION

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New Zealand fraud agency looking at WSD

By Helen Greig

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Mar 17, 2009) - A member of the New Zealand Serious Fraud Office is due in Rarotonga this week to look into the activities of a Cook Islands-based company.

This is reportedly part of an investigation launched after a company called WSD (Wall Street Derivatives) Global Markets Ltd applied to be listed on the NZ Stock Exchange.

According to the National Business Review on March 10, the delayed listing is ‘in limbo’ until the investigation into the related Cook Islands-based company is completed.

The NZ company is part of a global group of companies that have been linked to international money laundering and terrorist activities.

Last month NZ’s Investigate magazine featured an article by Ian Wishart exposing the alleged connections of WSD in a web of companies that all usually include ‘Wall Street’ in their names.

Wishart wrote that WSD Global Markets Ltd was part of a ‘global business conglomerate tied to international money laundering and linked by Indian Police, the CIA and M16 to one of the world’s most wanted criminals and terrorists.’

Wishart alleged that the stock exchange listing was being pushed using WSD’s connections to a couple of senior NZ politicians.

National’s internal affairs minister Richard Worth is named in the company records of the NZ WSD arm as a shareholder, while the deputy leader of the Progressive Party, Matt Robson, is chairman of its board.

Robson told the NZ National Business Review earlier this month that the Serious Fraud Office investigation is frustrating for WSD.

In December, WSD’s Auckland office was ordered by the SFO to hand over all documents related to letters of credit issued to clients as part of the SFO’s investigation and Robson says the company has been only too happy to help out with the investigation. Some of the alleged money-laundering by the Wall Street group of companies involves fundraisers for Osama bin Laden’s terror network Al Qa’ida. All allegations in Wishart’s article have been strongly denied by the WSD.

All of the controversy over the Wall Street companies has been linked with the Cook Islands government’s move to remove offshore banks from the country.

An offshore banking bill was tabled in parliament last month which, if passed, would have put an end to offshore banks.

Wishart’s article pointed out that the Cook Islands regulators are in a court battle with one of the offshore banks here over their licence to operate, that has already cost the country up to $1 million [US$530,000].

There are five ‘offshore’ banks licensed here -- ANZ Bank, Banktec Cook Islands Ltd, WSBC Bank, and Capital Security Bank Ltd.

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