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ASG's federal funds still frozen in Vietnam bank

Almost a year later, the alleged illegal transfer of more than $1 million in federal grant money from an American Samoa Government account to a bank in Vietnam remains unresolved.

Last summer $1.2 million in ASG funds was transferred out of an ASG account at the Bank of Hawai’i to the Vietnam International Bank (VIB) which ASG says was a "fraudulent wire transfer".

On Aug. 31, 2011, Governor Togiola stated “we suffered a cyber-crime attack that resulted in the fraudulent wire transfer of a large sum of money from our government account at the Bank of Hawaii to an account at VIB.”

The governor said the fraudulently transferred funds represented federal grant dollars that were intended to provide much needed support for the local education and health programs.

Through the timely efforts of officials at Bank of Hawai’i and VIB, the “account was frozen and funds remain safely intact”, pending the outcome of the joint investigation [with Interpol Vietnam and the FBI], said Togiola.

ASG Treasurer Magalei Logovi’i said last Thursday the funds remain frozen in the Vietnamese bank, while its officials await a final report from their country’s authorities.

He also said programs that were to be funded with this grant money are not affected by the funds being frozen in Vietnam.

ASG had sought the help of Congressman Faleomavaega Eni in its efforts to reach a resolution in the matter and have the money returned to ASG. Magalei wrote in late October last year to Faleomavaega saying that once ASG learned of the fraudulent transfer, his office immediately contacted the FBI because it involved federal money. At the same time, BoH officials notified VIB of the fraudulent wire transfer, said Magalei.

Samoa News has learned the Congressman’s staff in Washington are again following up on the matter after a local lawmaker contacted them seeking an update on the $1.2 million and asking if it had been returned to ASG.

In a separate letter last October to a VIB official, the governor revealed that the individual, or the company, who had claimed the money was called “Golden Bee”. The governor said ASG at no time conducted any business with this individual, or the company— identified as Golden Bee— nor does ASG owe them any money.

A google search of “Golden Bee” in Vietnam shows a manufacturing and supply company of a host of products, including honey and animal feed.