Sunday, February 24, 2008

MAHENDRA Chaudhry -The minister named

Make it public, unionist tells State
Last updated 3/11/2008 -www.sun.com.fj

A union member who had reported tax issues concerning interim Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry to the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption has called for a thorough investigation. This follows the appointment of a three-member tribunal by interim Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum to look into allegations concerning Mr Chaudhry’s tax issues.
Viti National Union of Taukei Workers general secretary Taniela Tabu said the inquiry should have been opened to the public.
“The inquiry should not be done secretly but should involve the public who may have information on Mr Chaudhry,” he said.
“There are facts that people out there can provide that could be useful to the inquiry.”
The tribunal was headed by Minter Ellison lawyer Bruce Cowley, Brisbane tax agent Donald Postle and former politician Taufa Vakatale.
The team had already handed a report to government yesterday, after only three days of work.
He also called on Mr Chaudhry to resign as allegations against him were serious.
“The fact that the Mr Chaudhry had only taken his leave is not appropriate,’ Mr Tabu said.
“Considering the position he is in, it is best that he resign.”
Mr Chaudhry could not be reached for comments.
Party ridicules Chaudhry tribunal
Last updated 3/11/2008 -www.sun.com.fj

The National Federation Party says the much vaunted tribunal to investigate interim Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry’s tax evasions is meaningless. And it went on in the same vein and said the stressing by interim Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum that the interim government was the first to investigate one of its own was nothing more than an empty boast.
“The inquiry instituted by the interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama into alleged tax evasion by interim Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry is a sham and a stage managed drama, designed to hoodwink the people of Fiji,” said NFP general secretary Pramod Rae.
In a statement issued yesterday Mr Rae said the party believed the majority citizens would not be easily fooled by the interim government’s action.
“Majority citizens are not fooled by Mr Sayed -Khaiyum boastful statements that his regime is the first government to take such action against any minister,’ Mr Rae said.
“Mr Sayed-Khaiyum has once again attempted to pull wool over people’s eyes.
“This inquiry is a sham because in the name of transparency, accountability and good governance that this regime so firmly advocates and accuses the deposed government of ignoring is blatantly missing in this case.”
Mr Rae also called on Mr Chaudhry to step aside from his position as finance minister.
“He should step aside to make way for a fully, independent impartial and public inquiry,” he said.
“The allegations against him are serious deserve intense public scrutiny and not dealt in secrecy as the regime has chosen.”
Mr Rae also indicated the term of reference for the inquiry was severely flawed.
“The burden of proof has been shifted to Fiji Islands Revenue and Customs Authority instead of Mr Chaudhry.”
He said the terms of reference regarding the Exchange Control Act were meaningless.
“The most significant aspect of the any credible inquiry should be to establish the source of funds, which senior FIRCA officers were allegedly prevented from doing so,” said Mr Rae.
“The Australian $1.6million is no pocket change.
“It is simply heaps of funds to find in a person’s bank accounts which ballooned from a mere $58 to $1.6million in quick time under very mysterious and suspicious circumstances.
“Most importantly, a credible inquiry should be to establish the purpose for which such huge amount of money was raised.
“Media reports state that when the Australian bank accounts were first discovered by FIRCA, Chaudhry’s accountants informed them it was being held in trust for the people of Fiji
“If this is so, why was it was banked in Chaudhry’s personal accounts?
“And the money raised overseas including Haryana, India was done so by a legitimately elected prime minister of Fiji, which was Chaudhry as declared by the Fiji Court of appeal on March 1, 2001 while delivering a landmark ruling on the case of State versus Chandrika Prasad.
Therefore that money should have been deposited into a State trust account for use by the people of Fiji.”

A-G admits working at Minter Ellison with Cowley
Last updated 3/11/2008 -www.sun.com.fj

Controversy surrounds the appointment of the tribunal members to look into the allegations of tax evasion levelled at interim Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry.The independence of the inquiry was questioned when it was revealed that interim Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum had worked at the Minter Ellison firm in which Tribunal appointee Bruce Cowley is a partner too. When contacted at Holiday Inn yesterday, Mr Cowley had just checked out and was not available for comment. Mr Sayed- Khaiyum admitted to the Fiji Sun that he had worked for the law firm.“It is true that I worked in the law firm but the law firm had many branches across Australia and employs close to 250 lawyers,” he said. “Even though we worked on the same law firm, we never spoke a word to each other.” He also denied that Mr Cowley was providing him legal advice on the issues dealing with the Vatukoula gold mine.And Mr Sayed-Khaiyum dismissed as rumours, that he had dinner with Mr Cowley and three senior officials at the Holiday Inn in Suva on April 1, last year.The other members of the tribunal are Sydney tax agent Russell Postle and former parliamentarian Taufa Vakatale. National Federation Party general secretary Pramod Rae said the appointment of the tribunal lacked semblance of impartiality due to the involvement they had with the interim regime. Mr Rae also questioned the appointment Mr Postle, a partner in the accounting firm managed by Nur Bano Ali, a partner of BDO Zarin Ali and also the maternal aunt of Mr Sayed-Khaiyum. The third member, Ms Vakatale is the former wife of Filipe Bole, who is the interim Minister for Education and former chairman of the Fiji Islands Revenue and Customs Authority.“How can the three members who have close ties with the interim regime’s two senior ministers are expected to be impartial and immune to influence from the State when dealing with Chaudhry who as the custodian of the State’s treasury openly vented his anger at the media for probing into the case last year?” Mr Rae said.“Can the three unequivocally declare publicly that they have no links whatsoever or have not come into contact with the any member of the regime?“NFP re-iterates that the inquiry is fundamentally flawed, does not have an iota of credibility and impartiality and is a slap on accountability, transparency and good governance.”Mr Sayed-Khaiyum defended the tribunal saying Mr Rae’s claims had no basis.He also denied the involvement of his maternal aunt, Ms Ali on the appointment of Mr Postle.“She is a supporter of the SDL (Soqosoqo Duavata Ni Lewenivanua) government and she has nothing to do with this,” he said.Several efforts made to obtain a comment from Ms Ali proved futile as her phone was diverted. Ms Vakatale indicated that she wished not to make a comment on the issue. Mr Sayed- Khaiyum said the tribunal members were professional and he trusted that they would do a good job with Mr Chaudhry’s tax inquiry.

Chaudhry to sue Fiji Times for $1bn
03 MAR 2008-www.fijilive.com
Fiji’s Interim Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry has announced that he will be suing the Fiji Times Limited for $1 billion for defamation.

In a statement issued today, his lawyer Gyaneshwar Lala said that Chaudhry has considered his position and believes that he should seek aggravated damages from the Fiji Times.

Lala said that he has written to the lawyers acting for the media organisation setting out the detailed claim by his client.

“We are also planning to file our statement of claim with the High Court within the next few days.”

He also said that a statement of claim will be filed against certain people including employees of the Fiji Times and others who have defamed his client (Chaudhry) and who they believe have been involved in a conspiracy to damage Chaudhry with a view to weaken the interim government.

“To date our client has been subject to trial by the media, and now we have advised our client that he has a very strong case if he takes it to the High Court.”

“We have advised Mr. Chaudhry that there is no foundation for any allegation that he owes taxes, has tax irregularities or has secret overseas bank accounts.

“We have also advised him that there is no doubt that he has fully complied with the code of conduct governing ministers contained in section 156 of the constitution of Fiji and is entitled to have his rights to privacy under section 37 respected.”

Lala also said that his client is surprised over the Fiji Times’ inability to justify the allegations, which they have published and why they have failed to issue a full apology to date.

Fiji Times Editor-in-Chief Netani Rika could not be reached for comments.


Province: Step down

SERAFINA SILAITOGA
Tuesday, February 26, 2008

THE province of Cakaudrove has called on the interim Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry to resign from Cabinet and from politics.

Speaking on behalf of the Tui Cakau Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, his traditional spokesman Epeli Matata said Mr Chaudhry had shamed the nation.

"He should step down and not continue with politics because he has not shown any sense of trust or integrity to hold such public office," he said. "Instead, he has shamed the country and such people should just go home."

Mr Matata said the people of Fiji did not deserve to be led by such leaders who could not clean their own backyard first.

"We clean our backyard first and make sure that our lives and all our houses are in order before we run the nation or organisations outside our house," he said. "What was the clean-up all about? What has been publicised in the media about a senior interim cabinet minister speaks only of how they need to clean up their group first."

Mr Matata said the province had never and would never recognise the interim regime.

"We will not work with them nor recognise any work they do," he said.

"What they need to do first is return Fiji to democracy and allow the people to have their say and choose their own government."


A letter too late

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A LETTER from interim Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry on tax to interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama was sent too late, says ousted Opposition leader Mick Beddoes.

He said Mr Chaudhry should have done it when the matter was first raised last year and suggested that Mr Chaudhry step aside to allow for an inquiry.

"If Mr Chaudhry is found innocent, the interim PM can reinstate him but until then, the government must act fairly and consistently with this scandal and subject Mr Chaudhry to the same treatment given others they accused of wrongdoing."

Mr Beddoes said the decision by authorities to go after the two officers terminated (Rabo and Leano) for raising the alarm on Mr Chaudhry sent a warped signal to other government officers who do their jobs diligently. "Instead of being commended for being loyal and diligent, they are accused of exposing a scandal after officials sat on the report," he said.

"What kind of signal is the Government sending government workers?

"Are we now saying that they hide any wrongdoing they find and not tell anyone and cover-up corrupt practices they uncover during the course of their work?"


Ratu Naiqama praises paper for naming Chaudhry
Sunday, February 24, 2008-www.fijitimes.com

THE Fiji Times has been hailed for naming the interim Cabinet minister who was alleged to have failed to pay his taxes when they were due.

Cakaudrove paramount chief Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu said this newspaper was brave to reveal interim Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry as the senior Cabinet member embroiled in a taxation controversy.

Ratu Naiqama said the interim regime and Mr Chaudhry should walk the talk and not bulldoze the Fiji Islands Revenue and Customs Authority.

"What goes around comes around. So much for their talk of transparency," he said from Taveuni.

Ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase praised this newspaper for the courage it took in detailing allegations about Mr Chaudhry's taxes.

And former Member of Parliament and Senator Doctor Tupeni Baba said The Fiji Times had done well in its coverage.

Tell of your bond, Young demands of Bainimarama
Sunday, February 24, 2008

A FORMER parliamentarian has challenged interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama to reveal the bond he has with his interim Finance Minister, Mahendra Chaudhry.

Former Minister for Provincial Development Ted Young made the comment yesterday.

"What's so special about (Mr) Chaudhry? What hold does he have over (Commodore) Bainimarama that can't be shattered," he asked.

He said police should investigate allegations against Mr Chaudhry's failure to pay his taxes on time.

"Investigate the tax amnesty period which he ordered last year.

"Did he benefit from it?

"Was it another cover up attempt?

"It's been sitting with FIRCA for so long, and it seems FIRCA was afraid to move in on the matter because it concerned its (FIRCA's) own line minister," he said.

Mr Young said Mr Chaudhry should be sacked from Cabinet. "The clean-up by the interim Government is a sick joke for the country.

"All people want is a return to elections.

"The interim prime minister is turning a blind eye.

"And police have only one eye as far as justice is concerned it seems because there is one set of laws for he interim regime and another for the country," he said.

He called on Australia and New Zealand to freeze Mr Chaudhry's assets and accounts until the allegations surrounding his tax payments were cleared.

"FIRCA (the Fiji Islands Revenue and Customs Authority) is obviously not going to do anything about it.

No personal agenda against Chaudhry
Publish date/time: 25/02/2008 - www.fijivillage.com

The Former Finance Minister and current Fiji Ambassador to China, Sir James Ah Koy stresses that the two officials of Fiji Islands Revenue and Customs Authority who were sacked last year, were top FIRCA professionals.

Sir James believes that there was no personal agenda against Interim Finance Minister, Mahendra Chaudhry when the former Chiefs Auditors for FIRCA, Lepani Rabo and Joseva Leano started intensive investigations against Chaudhry.

The former Finance Minister said he has known Rabo and Leano for a number of years when he was the head of the Finance Ministry, and the two were in the top three positions of the organization due to their experience and professionalism.

He reveals that a Mr Mahen Singh and Mrs Pushpa Singh from FIRCA were handling Chaudhry's file and they were the ones who allegedly found the discrepancies in the files. They then referred the matter to the Chief Auditor, Lepani Rabo.

The former Finance Minister said the top two officials knew that they would be victimized and they had also sought advice from him.

Ah Koy confirmed to Village that Rabo and Leano met with him after they were asked to go home. He said the ironic thing is that the two were handling Chaudhry's tax files.

Ah Koy also confirms that he met Rabo and Leano with the Interim Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama last year where the two raised serious concerns about Chaudhry allegedly evading tax over a period of time and his source of income in the off-shore accounts.

Meanwhile Ah Koy who is in the country with a delegation from China said Interim Finance Minister, Mahendra Chaudhry should step aside now as it is just not right for him to stay on and make decisions on taxation issues if he himself is alleged to have evaded taxes and not declared income in off-shore accounts.

Sir James Ah Koy said he is also ready to take over as Interim Minister for Finance if Interim Prime Minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama is finding difficulties in getting a new Finance Minister.

We have received information that Interim Prime Minister, Commodore Bainimarama met with Chaudhry, Interim Foreign Affairs Minister, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau and Interim Defense Minister, Ratu Epeli Ganilau in the last hour.

When approached by Village News outside the Government Buildings, Chaudhry, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau and Ratu Epeli Ganilau said that they went to the PM's office for a normal cabinet caucus meeting. Chaudhry also said that he will not make any more comments about the allegations of tax evasion over a period of time and the non-declaration of the source of income in his off-shore bank accounts from 2000 to 2003.


Chaudhry is finished: Baba
STAFF REPORTERS
Sunday, February 24, 2008

+ Enlarge this image

Dr Tupeni Baba at his home in Suva yesterday
INTERIM Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry is "finished', says former Labour member Dr Tupeni Baba.

Dr Baba, a founder of the Labour Party, quit in 2001 to form the New Labour Party, made the comments following allegations that Mr Chaudhry failed to pay his taxes on time.

"Nothing he says is going to be believed if he remains in public office," said Dr Baba, who quit the party after differences with Mr Chaudhry.

"In his situation, public confidence and personal integrity far outweigh privacy over his personal taxes.

"This time, he must recognise the writing on the wall. His time is up. He must move on.

"Fiji no longer needs a Chaudhry.

"Fiji's politics without him will be cleaner, less racially polarised and congenial," he said.

Yesterday, The Fiji Times named Mr Chaudhry as the interim minister accused of allegedly failing to pay his taxes on time on money deposited in five personal overseas accounts which, at one time, collectively had $AUD1.6million.

Documents supplied to The Fiji Times suggest that the Fiji Islands Revenue and Customs Authority wanted to establish the source of about $AUD1.6m paid into overseas banks accounts in Mr Chaudhry's name between September 2000 and December 2003.

Yesterday, The Fiji Times approached Mr Chaudhry at Nadi Airport to comment on the story.

He declined, saying he would issue a statement today.

However, according to fijivillage, Mr Chaudhry was quoted as saying that he did not owe any outstanding taxes nor would he resign as long as he had the confidence of Cabinet.

We could not reach interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama yesterday but according to military spokesman Colonel Mohammed Aziz, a statement will be issued later.

There have been calls from political parties and one NGO for Mr Chaudhry to do the honourable thing and step aside pending an inquiry.

According to Dr Baba, Mr Chaudhry behaved like a paragon of virtues on issues of corruption and financial management for the past 20 years.

"Many accusations raised against him by colleagues in the Fiji Labour Party have been defended aggressively by him," he said.

"It has split the party and caused many of his colleagues to be kicked out of the party.

"Allegations against the handling of the FLP finances by Mr Chaudhry have been longstanding and has created suspicion within the party."

Despite this, Dr Baba said, Mr Chaudhry continued to accuse and attack those within the party, the business community, the SDL party, particularly ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase, and the National Federation Party of financial mismanagement and corruption.

"The present revelation is a culmination of many of the charges against him," he said.

"He must now do the right thing by the people of Fiji and resign immediately and allow necessary investigations to proceed unimpeded."

Dr Baba said in 2001 when he and the late Dalpat Rathod then treasurer of the party questioned and demanded the money donated by Harana State in North India, signs of cracks in the party became evident.

"We were at the point of identifying the account. We tried. We knew it existed," he said.




The minister named-www.fijitimes.com
Saturday, February 23, 2008

MAHENDRA Chaudhry yesterday invited Fiji's media to name the interim minister who has for weeks been the focus of stories about tax evasion.

Today, we name him. Mr Chaudhry has been inviting this attention for months. In several well-published episodes, among others, he:

- Accused Fiji's accountants of being cheats by helping their clients avoid proper taxation.

- Told the nation when he presented this year's budget that there would be no escape for tax cheats.

- Told the nation FIRCA was proving there was one rule for all in tax matters when it worked its confusing penalties on Natural Waters of Fiji and the gold exporter Westech.

Yet, documents delivered to The Fiji Times suggest he has been at the heart of long-standing tax investigations into the source of his considerable wealth and why he had failed to declare income, failed to pay tax on it or reveal where the original wealth came from.

The revelations today which finally identify Mr Chaudhry as the mysterious interim minister will not surprise many.

Rumours about him have been circling for months. Bloggers have had a field day with this issue. But it is surprising Mr Chaudhry has not yet come out and settled the issue.

The rumours must have hurt the interim Government established on the principles of transparency and open government and fellow interim ministers.

By speaking up and identifying himself as the subject of this speculation - and giving straight answers, yes or no -, Mr Chaudhry would have saved the interim Government unwanted attention and enhanced its credibility. In fact, he has done this government and his colleagues a great disservice.

Our story is based simply on the fact that he is the manager of the state's finances.

This is about the principle of good governance for the people and the responsibility of those in power to ensure that they follow the rule of the law to the letter.

Mr Chaudhry influences fiscal policy, he sets targets and goals for FIRCA.

Yet he is the subject of serious and credible allegations about his personal taxes and will no clear the air.

In his position, public confidence in his personal integrity stands for more than his apparent right to privacy over his tax affairs.

Mr Chaudhry owes the interim Prime Minister and his fellow ministers an apology.

What we asked
Saturday, February 23, 2008

THE Fiji Times sent written questions to interim Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry at 5pm on Thursday, giving him more than 24 hours to respond before the newspaper went to press for today.

Copies of the questions were sent to his office at Ro Lalabalavu House in Suva and to his home at Hutson Street, Suva Point.

The questions were:

1. Do you maintain a personal bank account with any of the following institutions? The ANZ Bank, Wellington, NZ; Perpetual Investment Management Limited, Sydney, Australia; Commonwealth Managed Investments Limited, Sydney, Australia; First Choice Investments, Australia; and the Commonwealth Bank, Ryde, NSW, Australia

2. Information available to us suggests that you held up to $AUD1.6m in some or all of these accounts, which were deposited between September 2000 and December 2003. Is this correct? If this is correct, what is the source of this money?

3. Our sources allege that the Consulate-General of India in Sydney was the source of some of this money. Is this correct and if so why was a foreign government paying money to you?

4. Information available to us suggests that you did not initially declare for tax purposes in your Fiji tax return the following amounts in the years they were earned:

Is this correct (or substantially correct)?

5. Reports in other media say that you told FIRCA officials that this was money held in trust by you for the purposes of a community (or something similar). Is this correct? Would you like to offer any answer on the purposes the money was held for?

6. In 2002 was $50,000 withdrawn from these funds for a gift to your daughter? If (refer question 5) this was money held in trust, could you explain why the personal gift was made to a member of your family?

7. We understand that Fiji residents must have Reserve Bank consent under the Exchange Control Act to hold moneys offshore. Did you have this consent?

8. Was any money from these funds held overseas ever remitted to Fiji?

9. Our sources say that you were assessed to income tax by FIRCA for undeclared income and required to pay this; however that some of the money you were supposed to pay is yet to be paid. Is this correct? Could you please comment?


He owes the nation an apology.

And he owes us all his immediate resignation.

Taxmen suggested further audit
Saturday, February 23, 2008

DOCUMENTS delivered to The Fiji Times have suggested that:

- Tax officials want to know the origin of $500,000 invested by the interim Finance Minister in an off-shore investment fund, Perpetual Investments.

- On September 17, 2002 Mr Chaudhry invested in 500,000 units, costing $1. The same day, he transferred $489,000 out of his account at the Commonwealth Bank, Ryde.

- All income from the shares in Perpetual Investments was re-invested in the fund after withholding tax was charged.

- The closing balance on December 31, 2003 was $526,843.75.

- A note from the tax officers recommended that the source of the original deposit be ascertained.

They have called for checks be made to ensure Mr Chaudhry correctly declared the correct income which he had earned from 2004 to 2006.

The tax officers have recommended that the auditors must determine:

- Whether the transactions complied with the Foreign Exchange Act.

- Mr Chaudhry's true wealth and financial position between 2000 and 2006.

- The legality of the $500,000 investment.

- The source of all Mr Chaudhry's deposits and assets in Australia.

- Mr Chaudhry earned $27,835.32 on the investment between September 2002 and December 2003.

He was charged $3783.56 for withholding tax on returns.

Chaudhry's bank accounts
Saturday, February 23, 2008

Between September 2000 and December 2003, Labour leader Mahendra Chaudhry kept five personal accounts.

Here are the accounts:

- Account 39920061 at the Commonwealth Balanced Fund;

- Account 981000000116509 at ANZ, Lambton Quay, Wellington;

- Account 32468913 at Perpetual Investment Management Ltd;

- Account 0900 0670 5669 at Colonial First State Managed Investment Fund, and

- Account 0700 0673 5908 at First Choice Investments.

We say Our revelation is based simply on the fact that he is the manager for the State's finances. This is about the principle of good governance for the people and the responsibility of those in power to ensure that they follow the rule of the law to the letter.

Offshore accounts long ceased
Saturday, February 23, 2008

THE Reserve Bank of Fiji ceased all offshore accounts for Fiji residents after 2006, stopping Fiji residents from investing their money overseas.

Before that, individuals were required to provide intricate details of their accounts and provide an explanation as to why they, as Fiji residents, should be able to hold funds in an offshore account.

Under the 2005 Exchange Controls for Individuals, authorised dealers may approve applications for offshore investment of $20,000 per family or single applicant per annum.

Authorised banks were also allowed to open foreign currency investment accounts for residents under the facility up to the delegated ceiling of $20,000.

"Amounts over $10,000 must be accompanied by a tax clearance certificate," the Reserve Bank brochure on exchanges states.

Business entities were also allowed a ceiling of $100,000 annually and written applications to the RBF should include:

- Details of offshore investment,

- Background details and nature of the Fiji operation,

- Names and principals of the Fiji operation and the ownership structure, and

- Confirming of all outstanding export receipts in the case of exporting companies.

The Reserve Bank said it would make an official statement next week.

FIRCA yet to use tax laws
NETANI RIKA and ROBERT MATAU
Saturday, February 23, 2008

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Fiji Times reporter Harold Koi delivers an envelope to Mahendra Chaudhrys residence at Suva Point on Thursday.
THE Fiji Islands Revenue and Customs Authority has not used current tax laws to find the source of the alleged $1.6million deposited in interim Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry's Australian bank account.

Under bilateral agreements between the two countries, FIRCA can approach its Australian counterpart and ask for information on the bank accounts held there by Fiji residents.

This would allow them to establish whether money paid into Mr Chaudhry's bank account was credit from the Indian Consulate General in Sydney.

When approached yesterday, FIRCA Chief Executive Jitoko Tikolevu said he was not in a position to discuss tax details.

He would not reveal the identity of any interim Cabinet ministers whose taxes had been investigated. And he refused to talk about Mr Chaudhry.

"I cannot name anyone regarding their tax records," he said.

Section Four of the Income Tax Act prevents authority staff from revealing details of taxpayers' accounts.

But a former FIRCA auditor said there was a reluctance within the authority to pursue the matter.

"All that has been done so far is a desk audit," said former Chief Auditor Risk and Compliance, Lepani Rabo.

"What really needs to be done is an asset betterment statement which will show the taxpayer's true worth.

"From that statement we are able to determine whether the correct taxes had been paid." Mr Rabo said bilateral agreements between Australia and Fiji allowed a free flow of information.

"All that's needed is for the letter to be signed and sent, asking for specific information. It's quite simple," he said.

In Mr Chaudhry's case, he said tax officers needed to establish who gave him $1.6million and what it was for.

"If it is declared a gift, we should know what type of gift it was, who gave the gift, what it was for and in the end where the money went," Mr Rabo said.

"If that money is in Fiji, FIRCA needs to know whether exchange control rules were followed and who has that money now."

Revealing documents
NETANI RIKA and ROBERT MATAU
Saturday, February 23, 2008

DOCUMENTS delivered to The Fiji Times suggest that interim Minister for Finance Mahendra Chaudhry transferred close to $1million from his personal bank account in Australia to investment firms in Australia in September 2002.

The documents also state that the first investment involved $380,000 withdrawn from the Commonwealth Bank on September 23, 2002 and deposited in account number 0700-0673-5908 on September 24.

The documents stated that after dividends ere re-invested in the account and the withdrawal of withholding tax, the account balance stood at $415,170.10.

This represented a return of $35,170 on the original investment.

In a separate account, the documents stated, Mr Chaudhry deposited $500,000 after drawing $469,000 from his Commonwealth Bank account on September 17.

However, after more than one year, the account showed a balance of $427,505.03 a difference of $72,494.97.

All interest on the account was re-invested after withholding tax was charged.

Mr Chaudhry, the documents stated further, transferred $96,000 from this investment fund to his personal account in two separate transactions in 2002. On October 23, 2002 he moved $46,000 from the investment account.

This appeared in his personal account at the Commonwealth Bank the next day.

On November 30, 2002, he withdrew $50,000 from the investment account and this appeared two days later in his Commonwealth Bank account.

Both amounts were withdrawn from the Commonwealth Bank within three days of being deposited.

It was also stated in the documents that tax officers tried unsuccessfully to establish the source of the original funds which were invested.

They are also not clear as to where the money was taken once it was withdrawn from the Commonwealth Bank.

Revealing documents
NETANI RIKA and ROBERT MATAU
Saturday, February 23, 2008

DOCUMENTS delivered to The Fiji Times suggest that interim Minister for Finance Mahendra Chaudhry transferred close to $1million from his personal bank account in Australia to investment firms in Australia in September 2002.

The documents also state that the first investment involved $380,000 withdrawn from the Commonwealth Bank on September 23, 2002 and deposited in account number 0700-0673-5908 on September 24.

The documents stated that after dividends ere re-invested in the account and the withdrawal of withholding tax, the account balance stood at $415,170.10.

This represented a return of $35,170 on the original investment.

In a separate account, the documents stated, Mr Chaudhry deposited $500,000 after drawing $469,000 from his Commonwealth Bank account on September 17.

However, after more than one year, the account showed a balance of $427,505.03 a difference of $72,494.97.

All interest on the account was re-invested after withholding tax was charged.

Mr Chaudhry, the documents stated further, transferred $96,000 from this investment fund to his personal account in two separate transactions in 2002. On October 23, 2002 he moved $46,000 from the investment account.

This appeared in his personal account at the Commonwealth Bank the next day.

On November 30, 2002, he withdrew $50,000 from the investment account and this appeared two days later in his Commonwealth Bank account.

Both amounts were withdrawn from the Commonwealth Bank within three days of being deposited.

It was also stated in the documents that tax officers tried unsuccessfully to establish the source of the original funds which were invested.

They are also not clear as to where the money was taken once it was withdrawn from the Commonwealth Bank.

Tax officers advised audit
Saturday, February 23, 2008

INTERIM Prime Minister, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama met tax officials in August and was advised to start an audit to determine the source of funds invested by Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry.

Documents made available to The Fiji Times state that Commodore Bainimarama was briefed on the need to identify the source of about $A1.6million ($F2.23m) deposited in Mr Chaudhry's off-shore accounts. After the meeting, the senior tax officials were advised to take the matter to police. A letter to Police Commissioner Commodore Esala Teleni on August 23 outlined the concerns raised with the interim PM.

The letter was signed by former FIRCA general manager Risk and Compliance Joseva Leano and former chief auditor Risk and Compliance Lepani Rabo.

Yesterday, Mr Rabo confirmed signing the letter and said he met Commodore Bainimarama and Sir James Ah Koy to discuss the matter. "I initially approached the interim Prime Minister and he told me to take the matter to Teleni," Mr Rabo said.

"I wrote to the Police Commissioner on August 16 and offered to do a full audit for the police to help them investigate the matter."

Mr Rabo said FIRCA records showed Mr Chaudhry first failed to lodge his tax returns between 2001 and 2003. When the returns were sent in for assessment by FIRCA, Mr Chaudhry did not declare income earned on investments in Australia from 2001 to 2003.

In 2004, FIRCA's income matching unit found anomalies in Mr Chaudhry's tax records and did an audit which led to re-assessment of his income.

Who is Lepani Rabo?
Saturday, February 23, 2008

LEPANI Rabo has worked as an auditor for the Fiji Islands Revenue and Customs Authority since 1989.

He joined the then Inland Revenue Department as a tax auditor and rose through the ranks to become the Chief Auditor - Risk and Compliance Division.

Before he joined Inland Revenue, he worked as an auditor in the Co-operatives Department.

During his career, Mr Rabo conducted several investigations including an inquiry which forced the removal of corrupt officials from the tax office.

He was handed files of interim Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry by former FIRCA chief executive Tevita Banuve.

Mr Banuve was forced out of office from FIRCA after the coup of December 5, 2006.

Mr Chaudhry's file was later passed on to former FIRCA general manager Risk Compliance, Joseva Leano.

Mr Leano was also dismissed from FIRCA.

Mr Rabo was ordered to return the file on August 22, 2007 only hours before he was suspended for swearing at a colleague.

One month later, his employment was terminated on the same charge.

Army backed me to tell on Chaudhry: Rabo
23 FEB 2008 -www.fijilive.com
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The former chief auditor of the Fiji tax department says the military urged him to reveal tax details of interim Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry this week.

Lepani Rabo, who was Chief Auditor Risk and Compliance Division of the Fiji Islands Revenue and Customs Authority until eight months ago, said soldiers visited him at his home this week after he had received a call from a senior military officer.

“He said the military council wanted documents I had on Chaudhry’s tax details, which I gave to them,” he said.

Rabo said a military officer, whom he declined to name, also called him after Chaudhry yesterday challenged the media to reveal the identity of the interim Cabinet minister accused of tax evasion.

“He said the time is now right to speak out.”

Military Council member and spokesman Colonel Mohammed Aziz told fijilive that he is unable to comment on the issue.

“I can only say that the military will be issuing a very brief statement on the issue very soon,” he said

Rabo said he had maintained his silence “for a very long time” out of fear of being reprimanded by the military-led regime.

“I would have been taken up to the camp and made to run around if I had opened my mouth when I was sacked eight months ago.”

Rabo today showed fijilive the copy of a letter he had written to the Police Commissioner Esala Teleni on August 16 last year, lodging his complaint against Chaudhry and offering his assistance to the Police Fraud Unit.

Teleni had told the media then that tax matters are for FIRCA to investigate and not police.

Meanwhile, Chaudhry has denied the allegations.

He said they are baseless and has reportedly threatened to sue the Fiji Times for naming him as the minister who is the subject of the tax evasion

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