Unit highlights cyber scams

Members of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense with the team from the Fiji Financial Intelligence Unit yesterday. Picture: SUPPLIED

The Fiji Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) recorded a number of money laundering and financial scam cases during the COVID period and beyond.

Speaking to members of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense, FIU director Razim Buksh said they had dealt with cases involving internet banking fraud, ATM skimming, email spoofing, business email compromise, phishing, identity theft and social media scams.

He presented case studies before the committee, including that of a 44-year-old man who was reported to the FIU for conducting deposit transactions amounting to $2 million in a three-year period.

“We established that he had $4.4m in investments and bank accounts,” he said.

“The individual was a director of two local companies. Bank account analysis showed that the funds in the investment and bank accounts were sourced from businesses with various narrations such as profit from business.

“We identified a discrepancy of $8.2m between deposits observed through his business and the amount that he declared for taxation purpose.”

He also highlighted the case of a nightclub which deposited $30,000 in cash, which in turn triggered a suspicious transaction report from a reporting institution.

“The owner operates the nightclub as a sole proprietorship in 2020 and 2021 and you’ve guessed it right, in both years we had a lockdown and one sector that was under longer lockdown was the nightclubs.

“In 2020 and 2021 the nightclub received $3.9m in large cash deposits. It is unclear how the nightclub generated these funds given the COVID restrictions.”

Mr Buksh also cited the case of an individual on social pension scheme with 37 land titles registered under his name.

“A foreigner on a visitor’s permit was also found in possession of prohibited sea products

“He owned three motor vehicles and paid his fine with cash. He does not have any bank accounts and it is unclear how he paid his fines or acquired his vehicles, or rather, assets.

“A minor received a remittance of $150,000 for an entity, you can make guesses as to what the minor was receiving from an offshore entity. An individual received multiple high value international money transfers from unknown third parties in a span of nine days.

“In five months, an individual received multiple deposits from a third party totaling $250,000. A person bought $40,000 in cash as deposit to purchase property. The funds were not obtained from any bank account as far as our intelligence and investigation went.

“A massage parlour received over $500,000 in cash deposit followed by subsequent cash withdraws over a 12-month period.”

Mr Buksh also highlighted that they had connected with over 166 financial intelligence units around the world, including regional agencies, to ensure they were on top of their game to curb financial malpractices and crimes in the country.

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