Transparency Solomon Islands (TSI) has hit back at the Finance Minister, Gordon Darcy Lilo, stating that the "matter of illegal harvesting and export of beche de mer is a criminal offence and must be dealt with accordingly."

"Section 48 of the Fisheries Act, 1998 states that judicial proceedings may be taken regarding any offence under the Act. Contravening conditions of fishing licences amounts to a criminal offence and attracts a fine," TSI said in a statement.

TSI said that Mr Lilo chose not to treat this matter as a criminal offence and instead taxed the Taiwanese company, effectively condoning the illegal harvest and export of beche de mer.

"Compounding an offence means accepting money in the place of prosecuting the offence. Under Section 49 (5) of the Fisheries Act, 1998 any compounded offences must be notified in writing to the appropriate court. To TSI's knowledge this matter has not been notified to court. Rather, the Acting Minister for Fisheries referred the matter to Cabinet."

TSI says that the result of the then Acting Minister for Fisheries' actions has been that a foreign fishing company has been allowed to profit from a blatantly illegal act. TSI says that it fully supports the police investigation of this matter and will follow the outcome closely.