THE VOLCANIC EXPLANATION:
The level of activity at the Soufriere Hills Volcano continues to be low. Yesterday (Tuesday) there were 11 volcano tectonic earthquakes and two rockfalls. Mid afternoon there was a pyroclastic flow down the Tar River Valley reaching within 500 metres of the estate house. This flow produced a weak ashcloud.
Over the last few days there has been a distinct smell of hydrogen sulphide gas (which smells like rotten eggs), because of this the MVO is bringing in additional equipment to monitor the ambundance of gas in the environment.
Dust levels at all monitoring stations on the island are low at present.
TWO MVO STAFF IN HAWAII:
Two local members of staff are undergoing training stints at the Volcano Observatory in Hawaii.
They are Miss Venus Bass and Mr Raquel (Tappy) Syers who is on attachment to the MVO from the Royal Montserrat Defence Force.
STATEMENT FROM EASTERN CARIBBEAN CENTRAL BANK (ECCB):
The Governor of the ECCB, Mr K. Dwight Venner, issued the following statement yesterday from St Kitts:
"The ECCB would like to bring to the public's attention the following facts surrounding the theft of currency from the Barclay's Bank Branch in Plymouth, Montserrat.
This branch is located in what is a prohibited zone in the capital, Plymouth and the express permission of the police is required to enter this area. The currency in this facility is held under the dual custody by the Agent Bank, Barclays Bank PLC and the ECCB. The vault is made of twenty inch reinforced concrete plus steel grills.
It should be noted that the Central Bank has not been able to get access to this facility despite requests to do so. The facts as we know them are that on finally gaining access to the facility the contents of the vault were found to be missing and the police informed. Following their investigations several persons have been arrested and charged with burglary, and have appeared before a Magistrate.
The contents of the vault consisted largely of unissued currency. A brief explanation is necessary at this point. Until this currency is purchased by a commercial bank it is not legally issued currency. In short it is not legal tender.
This brings us to the second offence, which is being committed, that is, the attempt to legitimise this currency by putting it into circulation, or money laundering. This currency is in fact stolen property and has to be treated as such. The Central Bank cannot therefore retreat from its responsibility and turn a blind eye to its existence. It is for this reason that the Central Bank has brought to the attention of the public that there may be a quantity of currency in circulation which has not legally been issued, and is in fact the Bank's property which has been stolen. The simple reason why we have been able to do this is that since the currency was not issued we have a record of all the serial numbers.
The public is asked to co-operate with the police, particularly the Royal Montserrat Police Force, who have so far done an excellent job in conducting the investigations into this crime.
We must express our sincere regret to those honest, hardworking people who have been inconvenienced by these events, and ask that you bear with us while we attempt to bring these investigations to a speedy and successful conclusion.
There are two points of very great importance which must now be made. Firstly, we must be careful lest our collective actions and uninformed opinions be construed to be aiding and abetting the commission of criminal acts. The unissued currency in circulation is evidence of the commission of a crime. Let us not forget that the reason for the situation we now have on our hands is that a criminal act was committed. Certain persons went out of their way to get into a prohibited area and enter a strongly fortified facility, and, I repeat commit a criminal act. They are the ones who are primarily and ultimately responsible for any inconvenience being experienced by the public.
Secondly, the explicit and legal role of the Central Bank is to protect and preserve the value of the currency. If unissued currency gets into circulation it can have the same effect, as we have seen, of causing a certain amount of confusion. It is not in the interest of the public at large to have the currency jeopardised by such criminal acts. If a strong stand is not taken on this issue people with ulterior motives both within and outside of our jurisdiction will be tempted into having designs on our currency. This will not be in the long term interest of our financial stability.
We therefore ask you to be patient and co-operative so that we can conclude our investigations as soon as possible, so that the inconvenience being experienced will now be brought to an end". (END)
SERIAL NUMBERS OF STOLEN BANKNOTES:
The ECCB has issued the following list of serial numbers of the stolen banknotes referred to above. The list reads:
Fives: A238001M to A247000M
Tens: A195001M to A205000M
Twenties: A371001M to A374000M
Fifties: A081001M to A087000M
Hundreds: A128001M to A131000M
Anyone now possessing or coming into possession of these notes is asked to take them to the nearest police station.
OVERSEAS POLICE TO INVESTIGATE:
Radio Montserrat (ZJB) is reporting this morning (Wednesday) that two police officers from the Turks and Caicos Islands will be coming to Montserrat to assist in the police investigations into the Barclay's Bank burgary.
The station is reporting that the Commissioner of Police, Mr Chris Burgess has indicated that some officers of the Royal Montserrat Police Force have been implicated in the crime and that it would only be fit and proper for these investigations to be carried out by officers from outside of the Montserrat force.
RED CROSS AGM TOMORROW:
The Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Montserrat branch of the British Red Cross will be held tomorrow (May 21st) at 5.30 pm at the Brades Pentecostal Church.
The agenda items include; The Director's report, the financial reports for the years 1996 and 1997, and the appointment of a new board of governors. All are invited to the meeting.
DFID OFFICIAL VISITS:
Mr Richard Teuten, the head of the Montserrat Unit at the Department for International Development (DFID) in Britain is currently visiting the island.
C.M. FOR THE UNITED NATIONS:
Montserrat's Chief Minister, Hon David S. Brandt is leaving shortly for New York where he will address the United Nations General Assembly on Friday in an effort to increase aid to Montserrat because of the volcanic crisis.
More information later in the week...........................