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will be covered more thoroughly in later parts of
this regional survey.
There is a local trade in Micronesian-grown
marijuana, which is the drug of choice in the
islands as it can be grown locally for personal use.
It is also grown for regional export in Palau and
the FSM. Again, this will be covered in more detail
in later parts of this paper.
Other illegal activities
include the usual rapid
penetration of the regional
economy by Chinese transnational crime
organisations. These use the same tactics as in
Melanesia; cheap, smuggled counterfeit goods
with illegal workers indentured to the criminal
organisations to run retail shops and stores. These
provide a base for other criminal activities and for
the laundering of illegal profits. These ‘businesses’
pose a lethal economic threat to all the small
island states, and even to the largest of Melanesian
states. Like the Melanesian and Polynesian states,
the Micronesian states are dependent on customs
revenue for most of their non-aid based income.
The Chinese transnational criminal organisations
attack this income stream directly by smuggling in
counterfeit goods of all kinds and also by bribing
customs officials so they ignore under-valuation
of imports from China. They then repatriate all
profits, draining the very scanty wealth of these
countries. Nothing is re-invested, and very few
locals even employed. After all, what is the point
of paying wages to locals when you can get a
Chinese illegal immigrant to pay you to smuggle
him or her to Micronesia, there to ‘pay off the rest
of their debt’ by working for bare keep running
your retail system? Statements by Micronesian
law enforcement officials make it plain that they
regard Asian commercial activities, especially
fishing and retail business, as the primary threat
to Customs and Immigration laws, due to their
deliberate tactics of corrupting law enforcement
These groups and their activities
directly attack the revenue base
of Micronesian states. All of
these states lack the resources to
effectively combat this, and are
therefore very vulnerable to this
form of criminal activity. As several
frustrated Micronesian officials
noted, it is just too easy to entice
very poorly paid law enforcement
officials with smuggled cigarettes
and alcohol, leading on from petty
to serious corrupt practices which
become embedded in the local
law enforcement culture. This is
precisely what has happened in
Papua New Guinea, for example.
Guam, CNMI and Palau have
large numbers of Asian tourists arriving each year.
Drug and cash mules are among these tourists.
These countries also have a declining garment
industry, which used to employ thousands of
Chinese workers. These mostly remain and
are now exploited for vice crimes (gambling,
prostitution, retail drug sales and use) and also
provide a way to conceal people trafficking to
and through the islands. The countries with easy
access into the USA are prime targets for people
traffickers and smugglers, as they provide a route
into one of their most lucrative target states.
LAW ENFORCEMENT COORDINATION
The region is also a place of uncoordinated
law enforcement and multiple jurisdictions.
Information is not centralised across the region.
For example there is no centralised criminal
database and information on transnational
criminal organisations is not shared.
This lack of a cooperative law enforcement
community has been widely recognised. US
efforts to develop region-wide law enforcement
cooperation have failed. This is due to the
differences in scale, the ‘stove-piped’ nature of
US law enforcement and their own culture of
not sharing information. They also tend to ‘move
in, shove us aside, take over, then leave’ as one
Micronesian law enforcement official noted. So
they have not met with much success.
In recent years, the Australians (working in
cooperation with US and New Zealand law
enforcement agencies) have begun to extend their
Pacific Transnational Crime Network (PTCN)
into Micronesia. This system is very different. It
is small, quiet and effective, and it is very much
‘owned’ by the island states themselves. The
Australians fund it through the Pacific Islands
Forum, but there are very few Australians in
mentoring and project management positions.
The Pacific Transnational Crime Network is
manned by the island states themselves: indeed
only the very best Island States law enforcement
personnel are selected to serve in it, and they
are the ones who conduct its law enforcement
activities. This is what is needed, as Micronesian
nations lack a central point to pool and evaluate
their criminal data and intelligence. The PTCN
has proven successes under its belt in Melanesia
and Polynesia in this field, and over time has
slowly developed an improving transnational
law enforcement picture. Transnational crime
can only be efficiently fought with transnational
law enforcement and this includes pooled
criminal databases and multi-national, multi-
agency law enforcement intelligence analysis.
Traditionally, Micronesia has been highly
fragmented, with jurisdictions not sharing
data and not cooperating in law enforcement
activities even within single countries. The PTCN
will slowly and gradually change this from the
inside, under the control of the Island States law
enforcement personnel themselves.
Even the basic functions of Micronesian
states can be incomplete or flawed. In 2007,
research and evaluation of Micronesian states
showed that none of them had identified how
much revenue is generated by foreign owned
businesses, let alone how much of this they
remitted out of the various Micronesian states.
This meant that they had little idea of how much
their Customs and Excise systems were being
affected by avoided customs and excise and
THE MAJOR THREAT TO MICRONESIA
The major transnational criminal problems
facing Micronesian law enforcement
include detecting and identifying crystal
methamphetamines and precursor agents.
Few Micronesian law enforcement agencies
are familiar with these substances and their
ability to identify them has been poor. Since
2008, US and Australian efforts have seen some
improvement in this area. Their ability to deal
safely with clandestine methamphetamine
laboratories is also in need of development.
These are dangerous sites full of toxic chemicals,
they are highly inflammable, explosive, or
both. Law enforcement in Micronesia is also
affected by poor resources, corruption, and
an inability to track the financial affairs of
Federated States of Micronesia - USN sailors
providing assistance. Credit: USN / Michael Russell
Even the basic functions of Micronesian states can be incomplete or flawed.
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