13 May 2003

Solomon Islands police arrest three people in connection with threats that closed all banks

9:17 am on 13 May 2003

Police in Solomon Islands have arrested three members of a financial scam, called the Family Charity Fund, after its threats of violence prompted yesterday's indefinite closure of all banks.

Police arrested two men and a woman involved in the scam which has accepted money from thousands of Solomon Islanders with a promise of huge returns.

The police move came three days after the Fund threatened to blow up the building of the ANZ bank in Honiara because it refused to have any business with the Fund.

In light of the threats made against its senior employees, the ANZ bank chartered a plane and evacuated its expatriate staff to Australia.

The three now in police custody are Mike Hora, Baddley Au and Jane Maenua, who are to be charged this morning.

The prime minister, Sir Allan Kemakeza, now says the Fund is a scam.

"because there is no such money in the banks or anywhere in the country, or we have not been receiving any confirmation or document to prove that such money is coming - for sure it is a scam."

The government has condemned the Fund's activities but last week, it asked the Central Bank to rescind advice to the commercial banks to be careful in dealing with the Family Charitable Fund.

The governor bowed to the government's pressure but said he did so under duress.

Meanwhile, all banks will stay closed until further notice.

Paul Edwards from the ANZ's head office in Melbourne says the ANZ is likely to be closed for two weeks.

Clearly there is a climate of lawlessness and intimidation which is associated with it and until such time that it improves and we can guarantee the safety of our staff we'll stay closed. Now that's probably going to be at least a couple of weeks but hopeful the government can take some action on this and we can re-open as soon as possible.