Local Pacific Transnational Crime Network unit opens

Sharing intelligence, sharing information… across Pacific borders
fili@samoanews.com

As the newest member of the Pacific Transnational Crime Network (PTCN), American Samoa has now joined the TCN unit, with a system-network center housed at the one-story building next to the DPS facility and the local unit was dedicated yesterday.

The dedication followed about an hour after the official opening yesterday of the PTCN training and workshop hosted by American Samoa.

DEDICATION

At the dedication, Lt. Gov. Lemanu Peleti Mauga cut the ribbon to officially open the American Samoa TCN unit, which is headed by DPS Sgt. Jackie Lagai and assisted by DPS Det. Gaui Seanoa. All of the TCNs, including American Samoa, are funded by the Australian Federal Police, which has provided for the local unit, new computers, desks, and fixtures.

Before cutting the ribbon, Lemanu said “This is the beginning of collaboration and coordination with Pacific islands,” as Samoa Police Commissioner Fuiavailiili E. Keil and DPS Commissioner Le’i S. Thompson looked on, along with others including Phil Eagle of the Australia Federal Police.

Fuiavailiili explained that the PTCN as well as the TCN system was relocated to Apia, Samoa, where it’s now headquartered, in 2007, from Fiji where it was established in 2002.

American Samoa joined the PTCN late last year bringing a total of 16 member countries and the new TCN unit set up in Pago Pago now brings a total of 24 units with others operating in Pacific countries such as Australia, Samoa, New Zealand and Fiji. While most countries have one TCU unit, there are some countries with more than one.

Fuiavailiili, the PTCN chairman, said, “we’re looking to expand the network” to Guam, French Polynesian and New Caledonia. And he thanked the Australian government for their contribution.

“To me personally, I think it’s a great system because we need to share intelligence, share information,” he said of the TCN system and noted that with the system connecting American Samoa and Samoa, “We can really talk about issues between our borders. But not just us, we’re looking at the welfare of the whole Pacific.”

“Coordination and sharing of information is what’s critical in this network,” he said and points out that PTCN works together with the US Homeland Security Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

He then officially welcomed American Samoa to the network, which is a “great tool to build law enforcement relationships and hopefully keep the Pacific safe for all of us and our families as well.”

WORKSHOP

A weeklong workshop involving law enforcement agencies from within the Pacific island nations started yesterday, and with the opening of the TCN unit in the territory kick starts American Samoa’s participation in Pacific safety.

According to Le’i’s prepared speech for the workshop, objectives of the local TCN unit are in part:

•     Proactive transnational criminal intelligence collection, analysis, target development and dissemination.

•     Lead efforts to detect, dismantle and disrupt transnational organized crime impacting on domestic borders and the Pacific as a whole.

•     Liaise with various local government departments and agencies in relation to border control issues and investigations.

In his speech, Le’i welcomed participants from the Pacific to the territory “to help build and strengthen our capabilities to successfully curb the threat of cyber-crimes, human trafficking, and others while exchanging best practices to intelligence gathering and leveraging resources among counterparts in island nations to better strengthen our intel collection capabilities.”

As police commissioner, Le’i said he can “attest to the critical relationship our stakeholders from Pacific Nations Crime Network (PNCN) plays in minimalizing human trafficking, cyber-crimes, and reducing the threats to our national security.”

“As the front-line defense for our respective governments and island nations, we have a moral and professional obligation to foster a transparent network and culture of being proactive in detecting, disrupting, and preventing transnational crimes such as: drug trafficking, child sex tourism, cybercrime, fraud, illegal fishing, money laundering, illegal logging and people trafficking,” he said.

Le’i offered a recommendation to expand this initiative, which is supported by the Australian Federal Police (AFP), the New Zealand Police (NZP) and US Homeland Security through the Joint Interagency Task Force – West (JIATF-W), “to invest in our human capital through field training and identifying rising threats to our Pacific Islands national security.”

Additionally, it will allow multiple law enforcement agencies — primarily Police, Customs and Immigration officers “to exchange best practices among professional peers and colleagues.”

In his remarks, Fuiavailiili said the workshop and training “is very critical” to law enforcement in the region. “So whatever kind of training that you’re going to get, please listen up, as you’re given this information from people that actually sees a lot of things that probably you haven’t seen here in American Samoa,” he told participants.

Experts speaking at the workshop and training include those from New Zealand and federal officials from Honolulu.

He said intelligence gathering is very important to him and Le’i when it comes to making “certain critical decisions that affects our national security.”

“We’ve got our own issues in Samoa that we’re trying to solve,” he said, adding that he has been away from his job for six months but he wasn’t going to get into it “but I think you all know”.  (He was suspended from the post over several allegations, which were recently dismissed by the court in Samoa and he was returned to his job.)

“I’m a very proactive commissioner. I don’t sit around, I like things done,” he said, adding that he is a former Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officer, “so I’m very progressive, I’m proactive and it’s good to hear that you’ve got a commissioner (Le’i) that’s proactive as well.”

Fuiavailiili said that with American Samoa joining PTNC, “We can all come together as partners to do really good things here in the Pacific.”

And he is happy to see PTNC in American Samoa. “For too long the two Samoa law enforcements haven’t come together as a unit to fight transnational crimes,” he said. He said he is looking forward to the working relationship with Le’i.

In his remarks, Lemanu reminded law enforcement officers that the public put their trust in them. He also said that law enforcement officers put their lives in danger and in harms way and “we owe you a thank you for what you do. “

He said the importance of yesterday’s gathering is “collaboration amongst ourselves. No one person, or no one island, or no one nation can stay by its self. That’s what we believe.”

“The collaboration among the islands, the different governments, leadership, the commissioners and the law enforcers, is what needs to be done within the Pacific Rim,” he said and urged all law enforcement in the Pacific to “work together, coordinate and share our resources because we all do the same job — caring for our people.”

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