20 Oct 2006

European Bank in Vanuatu defends position over frozen funds

5:00 pm on 20 October 2006

The director of the European Bank in Vanuatu says it is co-operating with authorities over a court case involving a frozen deposit of eight million US dollars.

Kelly Ihrig's comments come after US Receiver firm Robb Evans & Associates described Vanuatu as unco-operative in attempts to recover money stolen through credit card fraud deposited in an offshore bank based in the country.

However, Ms Ihrig says the European Bank blew the whistle in 1999 about the deposit which is at the centre of an ongoing court case.

"When we were alerted that there could possibly be something a bit fishy, we did what we're supposed to do. We notified the authorities, we approached the courts and they initially put a freeze order on. Subsequently to that Robb Evans came to court here and another freeze was placed. We haven't done anything to send those monies anywhere else until the courts in Vanuatu instruct us to do otherwise."

Kelly Ihrig has also dismissed reports that the European bank is an offshore bank, saying it is one of four fully regulated local banks in Vanuatu, although it doesn't deal in the local currency.