Criminal cash couriering has been detected in the Cook Islands, and the wider Pacific, but authorities are blind to the extent of the trafficking.
That’s according to a United Nations expert. In a bid to combat the problems, officials from the Cook Islands, Samoa and Fiji are gathered at the Crown Beach Resort for a weeklong workshop on cash couriering in the region.
Chris Batt, the regional advisor on global programme against money laundering, said there has never been any research or investigations done into just how much cash was being smuggled around the region.
Most of the countries in the Pacific islands had a $10,000 threshold and if people were carrying more than that, they were supposed to declare that with the customs, Batt said.
“The short answer is we don’t know how much cash is being smuggled,” he told Cook Islands News.
“The slightly longer answer is, we are aware of cases not just in the Cook Islands but other islands jurisdiction, particularly travelling to and from New Zealand or Australia, where there has been cash detected either one end or the other.
“It’s definitely happening. And another by-product of this week is to get the authorities to start looking into it, and maybe capturing that kind of data to try and put a figure to the cash that is moving.”
The workshop is being facilitated by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, New Zealand Customs, and regional anti money laundering group, the Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering.
The participants are police and customs officers as well as financial intelligence representatives from the three countries.
Batt said they pulled this together with the view of getting people to focus on the issue of cash smugglings in the Pacific region.
“This course is designed to get some key people together so that they can start to get focused on that particular problem, by using some of the information skills that they gather here.
“This will enable them to go out and do some proper risk assessment profiling and transportation links and passenger movement, trying to pick up who these cash couriers are because there is certainly evidence of money moving illegally across the borders.
“It about the need to consider cross border movement of illicit or illegal cash as part of a much wider money laundering focus, so that’s what this is about.”