$59 Million, Gone: How Bikini Atoll Leaders Blew Through U.S. Trust Fund

Mr. Jibas said in the interview that he was trying to access the independently controlled second fund, which now holds $28 million, to sustain council spending.

According to Mr. Benjamin, starting in October 2021 the trustees of that fund permitted the council to withdraw roughly $13 million to fund its spending, but reversed their stance earlier this year and halted all payments out of the fund, including the regular living payments to Bikinians, to avoid further depletion. In the interview, Mr. Jibas said he also hoped to tap into new American funding to replenish the main fund.

Earlier this year, the Biden administration promised to provide the Marshall Islands $700 million in one-time aid and to continue underwriting much of the government’s budget. Under a treaty, the United States controls the country’s defense policy, which the American government considers crucial to countering China in the region. The aid has not yet been approved, meaning Bikinians’ future remains uncertain.

In a statement on behalf of Mr. Jibas, Mr. Benjamin said that the mayor’s critics were not pushing the United States hard enough for more funding.

Mr. Jibok, who as a council member opposed Mr. Jibas’s efforts to gain control of the fund, said that the United States had done little to facilitate self-sufficiency in the Bikini community, leaving few financial safeguards in place.

“I didn’t think we were ready,” Mr. Jibok said, “because I knew that we didn’t have anything in place to control” mismanagement or fraud.

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