POLICE officers attending a workshop in Nadi were challenged to follow the money when investigating human and drug trafficking cases.
Legal consultant and Proceeds of Crime workshop facilitator Nazhat Shameem said two of the most widely publicised crimes in the country - human trafficking and drug trafficking - were inextricably linked with money laundering and by following the money trail, perpetrators of fraud would not be able to profit from their crimes.
"In regards to human trafficking, with girls coming into and going out of Fiji, this is quite well publicised due to the fact that charges have been laid and the matters are before the courts. And for those investigating these cases, questions need to be asked about where the money is going," Ms Shameem said.
Director Financial Intelligence Unit Razim Buksh said money laundering was prevalent in Fiji whether derived from human or drug trafficking.
He said the FIU was closely monitoring any suspicious financial transactions regarding money coming in or going out of the country.
Ms Shameem said if girls were being brought into the country to work in brothels masquerading as massage parlours, investigators had to follow the money trail.
"Questions need to be asked as to where the massage parlour was deriving its income from. If, in fact the massage parlour is a brothel and not declaring this to the Fiji Customs and Revenue Authority, then this is an offence by virtue of the fact that the massage parlour is concealing the origin of money," she explained.
Likewise, Ms Shameem said officers investigating drug trafficking should be asking similar questions.
"If you are investigating offences associated with drugs, don't stop when you seize the marijuana. Don't stop when you lay a charge on a person involved in the sale of marijuana. Go one step further and ask the offender what he or she did with the money," she said.
"Look into bank accounts and find out where the money went and invariably there will be a trail which can be followed."
Ms Shameem also said the two-day workshop in Nadi for police officers from across the Western Division was designed to teach law enforcement officers the importance of taking the profit out of crime.
"Money laundering legislation and prosecution and proceeds of crime applications are about taking the profit out of crime.
"Don't just charge someone with an offence of fraud," Ms Shameem said.
"Also charge them with concealing the money and you can then go one step further and make a restraining order and seize the money, which is forfeited to the State and the accused does not profit from his crime and that's what this workshop is all about."
The workshop at the Novotel Hotel ends today.
Police face shortfall