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Illegal sea cucumber harvest approved for export

By Douglas Marau HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Dec. 30, 2010) – "I have nothing to hide."

Finance Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo made this statement in Solomon Islands when responding to claims by former city councilor Lawrence Makili that he was involved in corrupt practices.

Mr. Lilo has reiterated he was not involved with the Asian businessman who tried to illegally export 160 bags of beche-de-mer out of the country.

[PIR editor’s note: The 160 bags of beche-de-mer were reported to be confiscated by the Ministry of Fisheries.]

The bags if exported would have cost SB$4 million [US$500,000].

"Illegal export is not a word at all. The truth as already stated was that the cabinet has considered the beche-de-mer as perishable items. Therefore, cabinet had agreed to export the products instead of letting them rot without the government benefitting at all," Mr. Lilo said.

Mr. Lilo said the cabinet had taken into consideration that having netted SB$4 million [US$500,000] from this export, the government would have benefited substantially as well as in terms of the accompanying duties that would be paid to customs.

"So tell me Mr. Makili, what would have been the rational action to take? Leave the beche-de-mers to rot or get a bit of money out of it to pay for services?" the Finance Minister questioned.

He said Mr. Makili’s accusations finger pointing him as the driving force behind the beche-de-mer export was misguided because it was the cabinet’s decision and not Mr. Lilo’s as an individual.

"A cabinet decision supersedes any ministerial decisions. I am just one person and all along I never made a decision alone to this effect," Mr. Lilo explained.

Meanwhile, the Finance Minister also cleared the air on the tsunami funds.

"As to the use of Tsunami funds which Makili claimed I was never investigated for, I have cooperated with police regarding the matter all along, Mr. Lilo said. Therefore, if police have not laid any charges against me then it demonstrates that there was no evidence to support the allegations."

The Finance Minister said he would continue to assist police on the matter because he had nothing to hide.

He said he had explained it repeatedly that the tsunami funds were administered by a committee that was set up to deal with the predicament faced by the tsunami victims within his constituency in 2007.

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