Govt. turning to "dirty money": former Head of State

The former Head of State, his Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi, has accused the Government of relying on allowing "laundered money" to flow through the national borders to bolster its weak financial position. 

During a press conference on Friday, Tui Atua responded to earlier claims by the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, that under Tui Atua’s leadership during the 1980s the country was poor. 

Speaking at his residence in Tuaefu, Tui Atua pointed in response to the financial woes of the national carrier, Samoa Airways, which last Financial year operated at a $21 million loss. 

“A senior Government official came to see me and said the airline will not make money,” he said. 

“The official said they had reported this to the Government and he said to me: ‘You watch, it will only go broke upon broke.” 

Tui Atua asked in response: “What’s happening now? 

“Who will carry the burden? Will it be on them who are riding in flash (Government) cars? The answer is no. These losses will be carried by the rest of the country.”

Tui Atua also reemphasised earlier criticism he had made of Tuilaepa’s criticisms of the framers of the nation’s constitution: that the Prime Minister’s ancestors were not part of the Constitutional Convention. 

“The people leading this Government did not eat grass in the bush; they did not fend off the bullets, they weren’t exiled, they did not suffer for years, remembering that Samoa’s freedom and independence took years to achieve,” he said.  

“This stuff is not heavy on the mind of someone who didn’t suffer, who didn’t lose an ancestor in this, but people who suffered; it hurts, especially when you touch the issue of lands.”

Tui Atua continued his critique of the nation’s financial position under Tuilaepa’s leadership, arguing the nation had grown dangerously indebted. 

“The issue here is these big loans and the massive debt,” said Tui Atua. 

The Government's outstanding debts for the December 2019 quarter stood at $1.04 billion, a decrease of some $43 million over the preceding 12 months according to Government statistics for the 2019-20 Financial Year. 

“Of the outstanding debt amount, 99.0 percent, which is equivalent to $1.03 billion, were external loans to bi-lateral and multilateral partners," the Samoa Bureau of Statistics said. 

Tui Atua further claimed the desperate financial position of the current administration had led them to fail to respond to requests to crackdown on money laundering activities on Samoan territory. 

“Think about it, if they have gone as far as reaching out to dirty money that is the last resort,” he said. 

“It tells us there is a big problem; otherwise they wouldn’t have gone this far.

“Look at what they’re saying about what happened in the past. It’s true we didn’t have this many big buildings; we didn’t have a big airport.

“But look at that Faleolo [International] Airport now; if you do a cost and benefit analysis, can you tell me that they will make a profit? 

“What about the new airport at Aleipata (Ti’avea), will they make a profit?” 

He said the Government was ultimately turning to “laundered money”. 

“The meaning of laundered money is dirty money,” Tui Atua said.

“Their intention is they bring it to Samoa to wash them. Laundering money means they bring dirty money and they use our banks to clean them.”

Last November Samoa was one of just eight nations remaining on a tax haven blacklist maintained by the European Union.

That designation came after the Government failed to honour an undertaking to change its tax laws to prevent large multinational corporations from engaging in “profit-shifting. 

As of February 27 this year, the EU list of “non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes” included Samoa among a total of 13 states or territories. 

“So what do you say about this? Is this wisdom, using dirty money? Now look at the warning about Samoa risking its Commonwealth membership (if the Government continues with the L.T.C. bills). 

“I’m so worried about this; Fiji has already been there and it has massive implications.

“Are those the signs of blessings and prosperity they’re talking about? Look at the world over; every day in the paper (Samoa Observer intelligent) people are warning and opposing what the Government is doing.”

The former Head of State said the current administration was wracked by warring rivals and said that “not all is well” inside the Human Rights Protection Party. 

“It is because the Government is in turmoil, including inside their own party,” he said. 

“I’m not saying we are better. 

“What I’m saying is you have to ask yourself. When you look at all these buildings, you have to ask, are they edible?”

A copy of the former Head of State’s remarks were emailed to the Government’s Press Secretary but a response was not immediately received. 

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