14 Jun 2010

Former Kiribati leader not surprised at IWC bribery claims

1:25 pm on 14 June 2010

A former president of Kiribati says he's not surprised by reports two Pacific nations have been accused of taking bribes from Japan to support its effort to lift the moratorium on commercial whaling.

Britain's Sunday Times reports Kiribati and the Marshall Islands were among six countries willing to consider selling their votes on the International Whaling Commission.

Teburoro Tito, the president of Kiribati from 1994 to 2003, says he was never bribed and doesn't know if his ministers were.

But he says incentives and temptations are a fact of life for Pacific nations, especially poor ones.

"Our leaders, our political leaders, are always susceptible and they're always being tempted by the bigger nations and they'll do it in so many ways. I've had experiences of that, experiences of pressure on me when I was in office. It depends on the person - there are those who are more willing to give in and there are those who are not as willing to give in."

Teburoro Tito says small Pacific nations are targets for bigger countries with agendas to push.