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Friday, March 16, 2007

Procedures for checking the background of foreign investors

Just to add on to the reports on today's Fiji Times, One National News and Fijilive posted earlier about who is responsible for checking the background of foreign investors, let me describe below my understanding of the investment approvals process.

When a new foreign investor first applies to the Fiji Islands Trade & Investment Bureau (FTIB) indicating its intention to invest in Fiji, the FTIB would grant a Foreign Investment Registration Certificate (FIRC) to the foreign investor, within a two to five-day period. The FIRC is a sort of "passport" document allowing the holder (i.e. the foreign investor applicant) to then go and obtain all the necessary approvals, licences and permits that would be required before it sets up business in Fiji.

The FIRC is, therefore, an approval, given by the FTIB which is CONDITIONAL on the holder getting all the necessary permits, licences and approvals from other government and semi-government agencies.

Once all other permits, licences and approvals are in place then the holder of the FIRC (i.e the foreign investor) can then commence business in Fiji.

With regard to checking the background of foreign investor companies and its directors, this task would normally be referred to the Reserve Bank of Fiji's money laundering section (now called the Financial Intelligence Unit) who would then use its established contacts to check the background of the company and its directors. [The Financial Intelligence Unit is under the Reserve Bank of Fiji.]

This was particularly important to ensure and to "sieve out" companies and individuals who have been involved in money laundering and criminal activities.

In the case of the management company of the FNPF's Natadola development project, what would have to be determined was whether the company was actually a foreign investor or simply a project management company.

If the company was an investor (i.e. a foreign investor) then the procedures I referred to above would have had been followed.

On the other hand, if the company was merely a project manager, then assuming that personnel at the local authorities knew the work they had to do as well as what assistance other institutions could offer, the FNPF would have approached RBF, again to use its "established contacts" to check the background of the company and its principals/directors.

So, was the company a foreign investor or simply a project manager?

The answer to that question would then determine who is at fault for not doing what was supposed to have been done.

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At 6:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gross Negligence, comes to mind. Heads should roll.


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