Interview with Dr Falai Taafaki, Chief Prosecutor, Republic of Marshall IslandsWebsite Administrator
Dr Falai Taafaki
Chief Prosecutor, Republic of Marshall Islands
Q1: What does your role entail and how has your attendance and experience at this Cybercrime Workshop had an impact on you and your staff?
A: As chief of public prosecution, my role with respect to the issue of cybercrime is to:
- Coordinate and facilitate cybercrime-related information that may constitute potential harm to the interest of the RMI.
- Raise the capacity of investigators and prosecutors to understand better the illicit use of technology, and how criminal offenders use technology to commit cybercrime and cyber-enabled offences (improved capacity to understand has a direct influence of conviction rates).
- Expand and strengthen relationship with other regional and international partners (private and public agencies, such as Interpol, Council of Europe, Facebook, government agencies) and to learn from each other in the common fight against cybercrime offenders.
The workshop had a real and positive in-depth impact (in terms of understanding gained, skills and heightened awareness) on both myself and my staff. My colleagues, Meuton and Cutty were active participants in the sessions and in forging contacts outside of the workshop.
Q2: Can you tell us about some of the work your office has been doing in this space?
A: In general, I must admit that our work in the area of cybercrime has largely been reacting to incidences involving some form of crime with a cyber element: defendant or multiple defendants uploading sexually explicit material onto the internet, for example.
Recently, we encountered a more challenging episode when an unknown offender/s hacked into RMI investment accounts abroad. We were lucky in the latter case because the FBI, pursuant to mutual agreements with RMI, stepped in to help, in part because the nature of the issue was also infringing on interest of the United States.
Our challenge now is protecting RMI interests and its reputation in light of legislation passed late last year for RMI to have own digital currency, the SOV (for Sovereignty), in partnership with a certain New York based International Company.
Q3: What are some of key outcomes you think we have achieved at the Cybercrime Workshop this year? How has RMI benefited from attending these PILON Cybercrime workshops?
A: I think the way in which the agenda was planned and organized was a key factor. It was able to provide a coherent focus and relevance to the discussions, each topic providing an element of continuity/bridging to the next. The knowledge, skills and insights drawn from the experience shared by speakers and the participants reinforced the basic analytical tools for group case-studies /scenarios. Participants were able to translate this learning to their respective national or jurisdictional contexts.
I think it is important to be conscious of the interconnected manner in which any cybercrime offence is to be pursued.
To focus only on a particular area, pathway, or outcome can be tricky – because every step along the way – be it at the investigation, prosecution, or court level- is important. A gap or mismanagement in the information chain could affect both the quality and integrity of electronic evidence, and may create problems with admissibility. I think it is important to look at the workshop and information in its totality. From the stage of investigation to prosecution, and through to court. The workshop was of significant importance to us, in RMI, as we prepare to begin the task of drafting our legislation on cybercrime.
Issues relating to threats posed by cybercrime offenders are a relatively new phenomenon in the experience of island states of the region. But the fact that it is here already shows the transnational reach of this monster and its capacity to wreak havoc on any one country anywhere, anytime.
Q4: What are some of the other law and justice priorities for your office is working on? How do these contribute to RMIs wellbeing?
A: I think our priorities include drafting a series of legislation and regulations to provide for the protection of RMI’s interest against potential risks in connection with the RMI digital currency (SOV) which has already become law.
It is possible that the RMI Cybercrime Act envisaged as a prerequisite to our application to accede to the Budapest Convention may extend to accommodate cybersecurity. Otherwise, a separate cybersecurity legislation may be considered after an assessment of the existing risks and threats. RMI is also working with the Australian Attorney-General’s Department to create offences to better capture abuse of children online.
The workshop also raised the realization that the RMI Evidence Act will need to be reviewed to accommodate issues relating to electronic evidence required for cybercrime investigation and prosecution purposes.
Q5: What were the 3 most useful issues/matters discussed in the Cybercrime Workshop?
A: I think understanding how to take advantage of the assurance of cooperation and support offered and shared by our speakers: Council of Europe, Interpol, U.S. Department of Justice, FBI, Facebook, Office of the Attorney General (and their respective investigative units) from Australia, New Zealand and PNG, etc. is clearly a major consideration.
Also recognizing the importance of enacting appropriate cybercrime legislation as soon as practicable and realizing that the process of putting one together is quite lengthy and demanding. I think Tonga did a wonderful job on their Act. But then Tonga is Tonga!
That the participants were able to really get into the specifics – the nuts and bolts – of determining when and how to prepare a Mutual Legal Assistance Response, and what the essential elements and prerequisites are, was truly worth the time devoted to it in the workshop. I think it was the single agenda item that brought the most active and fun participation.
Q6: You have an extremely busy workload. What do you do to relax?
A: No busier than any other DPP, attorney or prosecutor in the region, or a PILON Program Coordinator for that matter! Well, like many other Pacific island countries, RMI is comprised of atolls with pristine lagoons and golden beaches where one can swim or walk at any time. I take full advantage of these natural endowments.