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Businessman allegedly involved in theft of public funds

By Giff Johnson - For Variety

MAJURO, Republic of the Marshall Islands (Marianas Variety, Jan. 7, 2011 — The first Majuro businessperson has been charged with involvement in a scheme to defraud the Marshall Islands government of tens of thousands of dollars.

But government investigators say more than a million dollars may have been stolen since the mid-2000s by a crime ring involving numerous government employees working in different ministries.

David Chin Tung Lin of Home Special Supply store was charged with nine criminal counts in the High Court on Wednesday, the fourth person charged to date by the Attorney General’s Office in an ongoing investigation.

Among the four charged are two Ministry of Finance workers and two people who work in the private sector.

[PIR editor’s note: Radio New Zealand International is also reporting that some of the misappropriated fund may have come from U.S. grants designated for health care in the Marshall Islands.]

"We are discovering many more cases (of theft and fraud) than we earlier anticipated," said Marshall Islands Chief Prosecutor Soye Brown of the ongoing investigation.

Both Secretary of Finance Jefferson Barton and Brown said the more they look, the more instances of theft they are uncovering. "This is a case of people getting money for services not rendered and goods not delivered," Brown said.

Lin was charged with one count each of grand larceny, cheating, forgery, concealment, removal or alteration of records, possession or removal of government property, conspiracy, obstruction of justice and bribery of public officials.

The prosecution said he conspired with the three others similarly charged — Allister Mantiera, Nella Nashion and Candi Leon and other persons and/or officials of the Marshall Islands Ministry of Finance — to create phony contracts purportedly between the Marshall Islands government and Home Special Supply that totaled $80,300, court documents say.

An initial hearing in the High Court is scheduled for Jan. 12.

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