Mr. Lamine Konate, a 44-year old African citizen of the Republic of Du Mali, plead guilty to one count of counterfeiting on June 17, 2014, and was handed a suspended sentence of two years imprisonment by the Supreme Court of the Republic of Palau. Sentencing conditions include Mr. Konate’s forfeiture of twenty counterfeit U.S. one-hundred dollar bills (US$100) to the Republic of Palau, and his departure from the country no later than June 20, 2014. After sentencing, the Mali man was released into the custody of Palau customs officers entrusted to ensure his expeditious departure.

Enhanced training of Division of Customs officials through collaboration with the Palau Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) resulted in the detection of the twenty counterfeit notes found to be in Lamine Konate’s possession upon arrival in Palau on June 11, 2014 from Manila, Philippines. Customs Officer Didil Lucio discovered the notes during an inspection of Konate’s luggage at the Palau International Airport, and along with fellow Officers Landis Rechelluul and Poland Masaharu, determined the bills to be counterfeit. The Mali citizen claimed that he had received the notes from a bank in the Philippines, but was unable to provide documents or receipts to substantiate the claim.

The notes were confiscated by the customs officials and subsequently confirmed to be counterfeit by Officer Haque Blesam of the Financial Intelligence Unit, Bank of Guam-Palau Branch Manager Matthew Cruz, and Palau Financial Services Regulation (PFSR) Executive Commissioner Tesfalem Aatifa. Court records indicate that the bills were deemed counterfeit upon careful inspection by the above-named officials involved because the one-hundred dollar bills lacked distinct features present on genuine U.S. currency. All twenty of the US$100 notes were determined to be from the 2003 series, no red and blue fibers were embedded through the paper, and no security thread was present, among other authenticating criteria. An ultra-violet light counterfeit detector also used to inspect the bills further confirmed that all twenty were fake.

Customs Investigator Pelefoti Cooper conducted a formal investigation into the matter after the case was brought to his attention. With the assistance of fellow investigator Roger Andreas and Bureau of Public Safety Director Ismael Aguon, an interview of Konate was carried out and additional information obtained.

The combined efforts and mutual cooperation among the Division of Customs, the FIU and the PFSR resulted in the successful apprehension, investigation, prosecution, and conviction of this international criminal. The Republic of Palau is working together with relevant U.S. agencies to ensure that any individual(s) or entity(ies) suspected of being an accomplice(s), accessory(ies), or other related persons of interest, are brought to the attention of proper authorities.

The offense of counterfeiting is a felony in the Republic of Palau and carries a maximum sentence of fifteen years in jail and/or a maximum fine of fifteen-thousand U.S. dollars (US$15,000) for each count.

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