Friday, 24 July 2009 8:09 AM

New Transnational Crime Unit Helping to Make Pacific Safer

A new Transnational Crime Unit (TCU) for the Solomon Islands will help make the Pacific region safer by joining the work of other teams in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu and the Federated States of Micronesia.

Commissioner of Police Peter Marshall said the Solomon Islands TCU has recently been established at RSIPF Headquarters, Rove but is still in its infancy stage.

"This is an exciting initiative where the Solomon Islands would join law enforcement agencies in neighbouring countries already involved in the Pacific Transnational Crime Network," Commissioner Marshall said.

"The role of TCUs is to address the increasing threat that transnational crime continues to pose to Pacific island countries.

"Transnational organised crime groups exploit the Pacific region through activities such as narcotics trafficking, child sex tourism, fraud, illegal fishing, undeclared goods, money laundering, internet scams, illegal logging, prostitution, pornography and people trafficking," he said.

The Pacific Transnational Crime Network is an initiative of the Australian Federal Police and is run from the Pacific Transnational Crime Coordination Centre (PTCCC) in Apia, Samoa.

Commissioner Marshall said that the RSIPF's establishment of a TCU fulfils a lot of the international law enforcement obligations of the Solomon Islands Government towards issues like narcotics and people trafficking.

"A Memorandum of Understanding between the RSIPF and the AFP is currently in development and expected to be adopted in 2009," he said.

This project is being led by the Australian Federal Police's Senior Liaison Officer in the Solomon Islands, Federal Agent Gary O'Neill.

The Transnational Crime Unit for the Solomon Islands will eventually include 6 personnel from three agencies including the RSIPF, Customs and Immigration departments.

Three RSIPF officers including Inspector Perry Tovavaka, Sergeant Eddie Koto and Police Constable Georgina Taupongi have been appointed to the Transnational Crime Unit, which is attached to the National Intelligence Unit.

Commissioner Marshall said the RSIPF's TCU staff would receive joint agency training in surveillance, intelligence and investigation of international crime.

"The RSIPF is considering developing a TCU-specific office at its Maritime base at Point Cruz," he said. "This would allow closer cooperation with Customs and Immigration over the longer term, particular in joint patrols and intelligence efforts."

Some of the activities currently supported by the RSIPF's Transnational Crime Unit included monitoring of small craft and big ships throughout the Pacific region to track the movement of drugs, logging cargoes and other goods.

"Intelligence sharing with neighbouring nations such as PNG helps warn Solomon Islands law enforcement agencies of illegal activities," Commissioner Marshall said.

Other activities of the TCU include the confiscation of DVD pornography and investigations into prostitution.

"Our team also helps track financial transactions to help identify official corruption. The TCU also conducts money laundering investigations in partnership with Financial Institutions," he said.

A crucial part of the TCU's work is helping educate the public about off-shore computer internet scams where Solomon Island money has been taken out of the country by various means.

"Recent African based internet scams have targeted locals who posted money overseas," Commissioner Marshall said.

"Solomon Islanders need to take more care not to provide their hard-earned money or personal financial information including access to their bank details.

"This is particularly when they may receive unsolicited email approaches from people in other countries with sad stories and urgent pleas for help," he said.

"These computer scams are common and exploit local people who are not very experienced in using the internet," Commissioner Marshall said.

If members of the public become aware of email scams or other illegal activities exploiting Solomon Islanders, they are urged to contact police."


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