Container stored at minister’s residence
CONTROVERSIES have erupted again over a 20-foot container of beche-de-mer due for shipment this weekend.
The container (No: CAXU3249964), owned by a local Chinese Xu Qiang, is being kept at the residence of Foreign Affairs minister Clay Forau, at Henderson.
It was feared the contents may have been falsely declared and authorities are called on to check it out before shipment.
Sources familiar with beche-de-mer export said while the number of bags loaded and quantity declared may be correct, Customs need to check out the different species.
“It’s common for exporters to make false declaration of the types of species they are exporting,” one source said.
For the container at Mr Forau’s residence, some say it was filled with high quality beach-de-mer species but are only declared with less number of bags.
Sources further questioned whether Mr Qiang has a licence to export beche-de-mer.
Previously, Mr Qiang is a business partner of Jerry Sun who recently exported his beche-de-mer container under Rendova Trading Company.
They split over differences and Mr Qiang has since moved on and started buying beche-de-mer himself.
This week, the police went searching for Mr Qiang to speak to him, and some claimed he was hiding at Mr Forau’s residence.
But Mr Forau strongly denied harbouring Mr Qiang.
Reached for comments yesterday on his mobile phone, Mr Qiang said he did nothing wrong, declined to make further comments, and instead referred the Solomon Star to his lawyer.
When contacted, private lawyer David Lidimani said he just received his client’s file and is still looking into it.
However, Mr Lidimani stated it could be something to do with the beche-de-mer issue.
He added he will be seeing the police today over the matter.
Mr Forau said the majority of Mr Qiang’s customers are from Temotu.
“In fact he has been buying beche-de-mer from Temotu since 2002,” Mr Forau said.
He said he knew Mr Qiang since then and they become friends.
Asked why as a minister he allowed his residence to be used as a loading point, Mr Forau said this happened due to the recent issue between Mr Qiang and his business partner Jerry.
The fall-out between the duo last month resulted in the burning of Mr Qiang’s car at his residence at Tasahe by those believed to be associates of Jerry.
The incident was now a police case.
Asked whether Mr Qiang is a licensed buyer and exporter, Mr Forau said he did not know.
“What I can tell you is we used to sell beche-de-mer to him since 2002,” the Foreign Affairs minister said.
Asked whether it is right as a minister of the crown to allow his residence to be used by an Asian to load the container, Mr Forau said he did not see anything wrong with it.
“I am a just an ordinary person like everyone else and we all do things for survival. We all work hard and do things for our livelihood,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Malaita Ma’asina Forum president Charles Dausabea called on Mr Forau to resign.
If he refused, Mr Dausabea said the prime minister should sack him.
But Mr Forau said: “I think my conscience is clear because I am merely helping a friend who is helping my people to harvest and sell their products. I am doing this not as a minister of the crown but just like an ordinary person.”
Mr Dausabea also called on relevant authorities to properly check the container.
“If Mr Qiang is found to have committed fraud, he should be referred to the courts, or deport and ban him from returning to the country,” he added.
By Daniel Namosuaia