Pacific discuss legal frameworks to respond to transnational crime


The Pacific Regional Law Enforcement Conference(PRLEC) this week facilitated new discussions on effective leadership, the implications of money laundering, and the legal frameworks in place to respond to transnational crime.

Pacific leaders were challenged to think about how existing networks can be better utilised to build relationships and share information. Stemming out of this conversation was an emphasis on the need for strong leadership in regional law enforcement, which cannot be achieved in isolation. This is especially relevant in the context of transnational crime which exists in a borderless domain.

It was discussed that the Pacific region needs to work towards broadening diversity in leadership. There is a gender and intergenerational gaps which need to be bridged as part of the united response to transnational crime.

The themes of money laundering and corruption were heavily discussed with an analysis of financial flows, corruption and predicting concerns of the future. This included the different networks of money laundering such as those found in the logging and resource industries as well as traditional banks. Attendees also raised the introduction of cryptocurrency to the region, forecasting its implications on policing money laundering.

The conference turned to look at legal frameworks responding to transnational crime in the Pacific region, and the difficulties in creating a unified front. Attendees were encouraged to consider the disparities of laws between jurisdictions and what this means for regional responses. It was identified that transnational crime exploits different laws and degrees of enforcement within the Pacific region. Criminals are skilled at identifying loopholes in laws to discern the path of least resistance, hence increasing the threat to the entire region. This stressed why cohesive legal frameworks are critical, but must be balanced by respect for state’s laws and sovereignty.

Discussions also highlighted that treaty making is not always a straightforward exercise, meaning that political declarations are often utilised despite the fact they are not legally binding. However, these help to provide landmarks that guide forward responses, policies, and programmes.

A concentrated group discussion session brought out a range of questions including how to best improve the capacity for intelligence exchange within the region; how to properly address the capacity issues in human resources and technology; and how to coordinate responses to overlooked issues such as the nexus of health and crime, or the threat of casinos.

The conference was closed by the Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum, Henry Puna, who recognised the importance of regional cooperation through open and honest relationships. He spoke of how geopolitical competition, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the ongoing unrest in Ukraine continues to exacerbate the region’s economic and development challenges.

He concluded by expressing his interest in the report that will come from this conference, and how a better understanding of transnational crime in the Pacific will help inform the development of the Regional Transnational Crime Disruption Strategy.

“Geopolitical competition, the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing unrest in Ukraine continue to exacerbate the region’s economic and development concerns.”

“Our geography, situated between manufacturers and markets, makes the region vulnerable to transnational organised crimes.”

“Additionally, accelerated globalisation has increased the region’s exposure and created an enabling environment for the proliferation of transnational crimes.”

“This has been further exacerbated by the growing sophistication of the internet, the expansion of e-commerce and development of crypto currencies which have significantly blurred the lines between licit and illicit activities.”

“It is not about developing new regional arrangements, it is about reviewing existing frameworks, identifying loopholes, and establishing shared priorities that we as a region can work together to strengthen our resilience and contribute to the achievement of our ambitions under the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific.”

“I look forward to receiving the report from this conference, to understand better the transnational crime challenges that we face as a region and to help inform the development of the Regional TNOC Disruption Strategy.”

“These changes and developments have resulted in the opening of new geographic and commodities markets, the creation of transnational supply and value chains, and the weakening of regulation in financial service. This is making transnational crime activities more attractive, not only as a choice of crime, but also as a choice of career. This is also driving domestic demand and development of markets and networks across the Pacific,” said SG Puna.

Major General (retd) loane Naivalurua, Advisory Board Member, Australia Pacific Security College said: “I ask all our Pacific Island leaders to talk about leadership as a core subject matter in their meetings. We are dependent on the ability of our leaders to listen to each other, wait for each other, and trust each other.”

“Three simple principals; 1) when the problem is big, you try and make it small, 2) when the problem is small, you keep it small, 3) In all situations that you encounter whether personal or national security, you feel the correct heartbeat. You need to stretch the extra inch, stretch out to your colleagues. When there is no problem, make sure you don’t create one.”

“Everything rises and falls on leadership,” he said.

Niue Head of Customs, Sionetama Pokau said: “We are living in a borderless world with regards to transnational crime. Their motivation is to make money, but within our region we have our organisations across the region, with existing platforms and systems. The challenge is to bring these platforms and systems together.”

“We as leaders in law enforcement in the Pacific need to come together, work together, share resources together, and share information together to disrupt transnational crime,” he said.

Dr Judy Swann, Head Military Health Services, Pacific, International SOS said: “We need to co-design and co-create leadership programs, and make sure they are timely in terms of limited windows, country specific and tailored to the crises of today. Leadership matters in a fast-moving environment, and in a fast-paced complex environment. You need to decide what your leadership needs are.”

“Police leaders must have a very good understanding of their own organisation’s roles, but also strategically be aware of all the roles of those other organisations. Because if you live in isolation and only work towards your own goals then you are going to leave people behind “Youth were one of the most neglected areas for leadership development,” Dr Swann said.

Chief Executive Officer, Pacific Disability Forum, Setareki Macanawai said: “You need to broaden diversity in leadership. There is an intergenerational gap – you are dealing with younger people. How do you bring intergenerational consciousness to address these gaps in the context of responding to transnational crime?”

International Anti-Corruption Coordination Centre, Sargent Louise McGregor said: “The UN estimates that annually 20-40 billion is stolen every year from countries for corruption related offenses.”

The Australian National University (ANU) Michael Kabuni said: “Is there a Pacific based solution for this Pacific problem? Micro-finance banks don’t require formal IDs. The card that’s issued by the micro-finance relies on an MOU between the micro-finance and the ATMs at some banks. If the FATF (Financial Agency Taskforce) goes down to this level [and requires formal ID] it will rule out all these people who are using micro-finance.”

“A Pacific based solution to unbanked people is to incorporate micro-finance banks that don’t require formal ID’s.”

“Crypto currency is a new frontier of money laundering,” he said.

Dr Grant Walton, The Development Policy Centre, ANU said: “When we think about networks working against corruption – we need to understand that power shapes anti-corruption networks as well.”

Deputy Head of Secretariat for PIDC, Akuila Ratu said: “This conference has opened up a lot of discussions and issues for everyone to talk about in the prospective places.”

“We need to take ownership, and leadership over these issues now,” he said.

Nicholas Brown, Executive Director of PICP said: “From my perspective particularly, the value that the academics can add to the framework that we already have is very valuable.”

“One of the things we need to reflect on is that we don’t want to start to build a new network, there is already existing infrastructure that we need to utilise,” he said.

Ross Ardern, Advisory Board Member, Australia Pacific Security College said: “We come together as friends, we come together as family. Law enforcement officials have come such a tremendous way.