Parliament passes bankruptcy law

Parliament this week passed the law aimed at preventing those accused of bankruptcy from leaving the country without settling their debts.

The Bankruptcy Amendment Act 2016 gives the Official Assignee the power to stop bankrupts from skipping the country without his consent. 

This law supersedes the Act of the same name passed back in1908.

LealailepuleRimoniAiafi, the Associate Minister of the Ministry of Communication Information and Technology, told Parliament he supported the amendment. 

However, he asked if there was a provision in the law that can stop debtors who have not yet been declared bankrupt from leaving the country. 

Leala said; “The problem we have now, is that many people who have not been declared bankrupt, have left the country while guarantors are left to suffer paying their debts.”

He asked: “Has the committee looked into this area?”

In response, the Chairperson of the Finance and Expenditure Committee, Ali’imalemanu Alofa Tu’uau, said the bill aimed at protecting lenders. 

She added it will also keep borrowers in the country to ensure they take responsibility for any money they owe. 

“We believe that in terms of debts, there are policies from bank institutions that can stop the accused from leaving the country,” said Ali’imalemanu. 

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi also offered a more detailed explanation of the proposed change. 

An example he used is a business that loans $100,000 from a wholesale company to operate the business. 

Later on more goods are loaned from another company with an agreement to make part payment. Tuilaepa continued to say that once that is done, the business decides to bring in vehicles from overseas where it encounter more problems with customs in terms of payment. 

He said; “They then go through to the Member of Parliament to use his connections and ask the Minister to give them three months (to pay).”

“Within that three months, the bank, customs and other shops are now after payment and the business (person) is charged.”

According to the Prime Minister this is where the new amendment comes in; where the Official Assignee stops the accused from leaving the country while he oversees the process to pay back the debts. 

Tuilaepa said there might also be the possibility of the accused leaving the country if they are related to someone in Immigration. 

However, he insisted there are other ways that can be dealt with where the government and the authorities from overseas can work together to bring the accused back or he or she can get charged overseas. 

The Bankruptcy Amendment Act 2016 was passed before parliament was adjourned to 18 October, 2016. 

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