TI Vanuatu calls for openness in super yacht case | Pacific Beat

TI Vanuatu calls for openness in super yacht case

TI Vanuatu calls for openness in super yacht case

Updated 17 August 2012, 17:09 AEST

There's been a call for the Vanuatu government to be more open about investigations into a super yacht which arrived in Port Vila several weeks ago.

The four masted vessel, the Phocea was raided by Vanuatu authorities on suspicion of drug smuggle and passport fraud, and 13 crew members have pleased guilty to breaking local customs and immigration laws.

The :Phoceas' owner, Pascal Anh Quan Saken, is Vanuatus' honorary consul in Vietnam.

The head of Transparency International in Vanuatu, Marie-Noelle Ferrieux-Patterson, tells Bruce Hill that the ongoing silence from the government over allegations of political involvement in the case is simply fuelling rumours, and outside assistance with the investigation might be necessary.

Presenter:Bruce Hill

Speaker:The head of Transparency International in Vanuatu, Marie-Noelle Ferrieux-Patterson

FERRIEUX-PATTERSON: It has been front page news from a few weeks. It's been talked about internationally and our politician or minister responsible for police or the minister, Prime Minister, no one has come and spoken about it. I think when we are so much put in the line of criticism and the public service is put and the politician, it is time for the authorities to speak to the people and tell them what is going on and what is being done in order to reassure them that the rule of law prevails and things are being done properly, especially when our Prime Minister is repeatedly stated that the public service, has problems with corruption and he was going to do everything he could to put them back on the right track. So I think that it's very important for all of us to see the system working and I think that's what we are calling for the Prime Minister to come out and say something.

HILL: It's quite a remarkable story, isn't it, this giant super yacht, allegations about drugs and money smuggling and politicians coming aboard the yacht and policemen being told not to continue the investigation. There's obviously a lot of gossip and rumour and speculation happening in Vanuatu about this at the moment, isn't there?

FERRIEUX-PATTERSON: Yeah, there is and I think it's probably also because of the silence of the source and I think the idea that or what happened was the policeman when he just started the investigation was suspended, that came out as quite a shock I think to the public, because he was not finished, he was going to do a further a third step in his investigation and he was stopped, and also there was at the time some breaches of that ship in the way that the ship had not been cleared by the customs and therefore no one was supposed to go on board, when in fact two ministers had already gone on board. So these are clear breaches of the rules already that need to be right away investigated. So I think by having the politicians getting involved and stopping everything brought even more rumours and more and more doubt about what the business of these people was about.

HILL: Now, does Transparency International in Vanuatu have confidence that the local authorities are able to investigate this adequately or do you think that Vanuatu could do with some outside assistance with this investigation?

FERRIEUX-PATTERSON: I mean we apparently the investigation as far as what we heard in the media and I think that's all we have heard, because no one else is talking, I think stopped. Nothing is because the guy wasn't charged in some ways had done something wrong, we don't know exactly what or indeed he has taken too long to get the warrant in the magistrate court or something. I think he has quite a few good defences for that. Basically we don't know who is investigating and no, don't. So yes, we thought that one of the best way would be to get someone from outside, but I cannot imagine our politicians, the top politician at the moment who are going for elections this year wanting someone from outside the country or someone really objective to do the job. But at least he should have the commission of inquiry or someone looking at it. Because everyone thinks that whole business is going to disappear, so I think that's what we don't want to see and we want to know the reasons to as mentioned also in the newspaper, there seems to be two sides to it, eh. I mean there's clear breaches of the law by the owner of the Phocea, clear breaches of the law by the politicians in what people saw and going on ship and when the boat was not here, so that's no way that we can avoid that. After that, there are numerous, numerous allegations about what they are here for, what has come out really clearly is that there is the owner of the ship has got a legal case at the moment in the Supreme Court against some leader and some other business people and that basically also shows that and the whole matter is at a revenge, the police being sent to them or does the leader in question knew exactly what they were about and took advantage of his knowledge, of knowledge to kind of denounce them. So it's a bit of basket of crabs as we say. We don't know, but it doesn't flaw the population for the people reading into this meant good and I think that is why it needs to be totally, to have the Prime Minister coming up and saying the Minister of Home Affairs coming out and saying OK, we are putting someone and a full investigation is going to happen and keep the people informed.

Contributors

Bruce Hill

Bruce Hill

Presenter

Bruce is one of the Pacific’s most experienced journalists with nearly 20 years covering the region and has won several international awards.

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