Fiji Financial Investigation Triggered By US Arrest

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Charges related to fraudulent US citizenship schemes

By Sikeli Qounadovu

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, February 15, 2016) – The Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) says it will work with law enforcement officers here and abroad to investigate financial transactions involving Americans Helping America (AHA) and Fijians Helping Fiji Co-operative Ltd (FHFCL).

This comes in the wake of the arrest of AHA CEO Dr Helaman Hansen. FIU director Razim Buksh said it was an area of concern for them since AHA was the adviser for FHFCL.

Dr Hansen was arrested by US authorities on charges relating to his alleged operation of a fraudulent adult-adoption program over the past four years that falsely promised citizenship to undocumented immigrants.

He faces 11 counts of mail fraud and one count of wire fraud charges. While the FHFCL has continuously denied any involvement with the adoption program, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) affidavits revealed FHFCL purported to maintain the offices of AHA in Fiji.

According to documents provided by the US Attorney's Office in East District of California, Dr Hansen and his co-conspirators allegedly offered American citizenships in exchange for money.

About 500 people from eight US states fell victim to this program.

In an earlier FBI affidavit, two emails were discovered from the email address, the first addressed to Dr Hansen, listed six Fijian names ready for sponsorship letters.

The second was addressed to vice-chairman of AHA Newalow Weekes and listed six committee members for FHFCL.

The FBI also discovered two lists of FHFCL members, one had 267 names.

If convicted, Dr Hansen could face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

FHFCL CEO Waisea Kikau said he was unaware of these emails.

Mr Buksh said while he was aware of investigations by the Fiji Police Force against the FHFCL, the FIU would link up with law enforcement agencies locally and abroad because financial transactions were involved.

"His arrest could result in many more to be roped in for questioning following their involvement in the fraudulent adult adoption program. Those who can be questioned include Fijians who are part of the Fijians Helping Fiji Co-operative Ltd, which according to the indictment court documents had conspired to defraud "aliens" living in the United States and grant them legal status. According to the indictment detailing Dr Hansen's charges "the FHFCL was a subsidiary of AHA. Agents and employees of FHFCL were involved in the marketing, sale and maintenance of memberships to victims of AHA's fraudulent migration program.

"A key component of the fraudulent claim is that immigrant adults could be legally adopted by US citizens. Its membership fees went from $US150 ($F321) to as high $US10,000 ($F21,417)," the indictment read.

According to the indictment, although many went through the program, not one person gained citizenship.


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