It was at the beginning of the year we were warned.
It came from the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Agafili Shem Leo, who cautioned that the rise of international crimes within the Pacific region means Samoa has become extremely vulnerable as the conduit of some of the criminal activities.
At the time, Agafili was speaking as the Head of Samoa’s Immigration office during the Pacific Immigration Directors Conference (P.I.D.C) meeting with the press.
Agafili warned that Samoa was being targeted by different criminals as part of organised crime especially with the availability of technology.
“These crimes are happening globally, and Samoa is no exception from being affected indirectly.”
The warning from Agafili came to mind yesterday when we read the front page story titled “Police nab alleged schemer.” It became even more alarming because in a matter of months, we’ve now had two similar cases, which means this country definitely needs to lift the level of alertness in relation to these organised crimes.
For the uninitiated, the story in question referred to a 33-year-old Romanian man who has been arrested for allegedly scheming money from one of the local banks.
In confirming the incident, Police Commissioner, Fuiavailili Egon Keil, reiterated the message from Agafili.
“As you remember we had a similar incident where we arrested two Chinese nationals and they have been convicted and will be sentenced soon,” Fuiava said.
The Commissioner added these incidents are growing in the Pacific.
“Usually this is a ring that occurs in the region and it’s not just one individual, it’s organized crime. Essentially that’s what it is,” he said.
“It travels in different islands and victimizes people from different islands. This is not the only crime that is transnational but it is a trend that’s happening in the Pacific. We are working together with other Pacific islands to bring this crime to a halt.”
So what do you need to know?
“I want to advise all the customers out there in the banking industry to please check your bank accounts to make sure that there’s no illegal or unauthorised A.T.M. money that was taken out of your account,” Fuiava said.
“I won’t say which bank it is but I will just say generally to check your A.T.M. cards and A.T.M. transactions to ensure that those A.T.M. transactions are yours.
“If is not then please report the matter to your banking industry and institution and also bring it to the attention of law enforcement so we can stop this transnational crime.”
There is of course a lot more that is being done to counter these transnational crimes. What’s comforting to know is that the Police and the relevant authorities are not sleeping on the task. They are well aware of, and are being proactive in combating it.
“The Pacific Transnational Crimes Network which is housed in Samoa plays a key role. We track and we coordinate and communicate with our partners all over the region like Tonga, Vanuatu, Fiji, New Zealand and Australia to stop transnational crimes from occurring.
“This is exactly what’s happening right now and it is through the hard work of the women and men in blue in the T.C.U. that’s bringing these criminals into justice.”
Fuiava said the goal is to stop criminals from victimizing innocent members of the public.
“We will make sure that we will stop these crimes and stop these people from victimising everyone.
“I also want to send a message out there to those folks who want to come in Samoa and commit these types of crimes here that Samoa police will not tolerate these kinds of transnational crimes. We will find out and we will prosecute them.”
Lastly, it must be stressed you and I have a very important part to play, as the Police Commissioner acknowledged.
“We want to thank the public and also the banking industry for their cooperation and assistance in this matter in arresting and bringing these individuals into justice,” said Fuiavailili.
“Most of the crimes are reported by the public. So without the public’s help and assistance not only in reporting it and also helping us with the prosecution, we wouldn’t be able to catch these people.”
So there you have it Samoa, keep a look out for these people. We need to be alert and we all have a part to play. Stay safe and have a wonderful weekend Samoa, God bless!