A cyber-crime unit has been formed to address cyber or internet related crimes in Palau, according to Director Rhinehart Silas of the Bureau of Revenue, Customs and Taxation of the Ministry of Finance.

The unit is made up of multi-agency personnel from the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Justice to investigate reported cyber-crimes.

The unit includes people from NEA (national drug enforcement agency), Customs and Border Protection, Bureau of Revenue and Taxation, Immigration, Labor and others as maybe required according to each report.

“We can not say at this time what specific reports we have received as investigations are on-going but we have received reports of possible illegal activities involving cyber-activities,” stated Director Silas.

Director Silas acknowledged that Palau has limited capacity to investigate cyber crimes and he said that at this time, they mainly look at the reports and investigate to see if the activities are permitted by law and whether they are licensed to operate.

There is still a gap in Palau laws addressing cyber-crimes.  Faster internet and greater capacity are relatively new and Palau has not created laws to address potential criminal activities consequential to this new capacity.

In March of 2019, Financial Institutions Commission (FIC) issued a moratorium on any cryptocurrency activity in Palau or in the name of Palau, stating that Palau did not have laws and regulations in place for this type of financial activity.  This November 2019, both Bureau of Revenue and Taxation and Financial Institutions Commission issued a joint statement warning people of illegal use of false licenses or expired licenses to engage in unlicensed financial transactions including cryptocurrency.

Cyber-crimes may include internet scamming, unlicensed online gambling, hacking, identity theft and transaction fraud among others. (L.N. Reklai)