8 Jan 2011

US steps up interest in theft of US funding in Marshalls

9:36 am on 8 January 2011

The United States State Department says it is closely monitoring allegations of widespread fraud and theft involving US federal grant funding in the Marshall Islands

Four people, including two in the Ministry of Finance, have been charged with theft and conspiracy, and prosecutors say more will be charged in the coming weeks in a widening probe of misuse of U.S. funding.

The US Deputy Chief of Mission at the US embassy in Majuro, Eric Watnik, says the embassy has not yet received official word from the Marshall Islands government about the charges and the ongoing investigation, but is monitoring the matter closely.

Both U.S.and Marshall Islands officials have confirmed that the US has stepped up the level of its interest in the investigation by issuing a diplomatic note to the Marshall Islands Ministry of Foreign Affairs officially lodging its concern over the situation.

Mr Watnik says the US will take all appropriate actions to investigate misuse of US taxpayer funds.