Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Qarase’s Abuse of Office Case Adjourned

19 January 2010

Former Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase's abuse of office case has been adjourned to allow time for his lawyer to prepare submissions following FICAC's application to consolidate his conspiracy charges with former Fijian Holdings CEO Sitiveni Weleilakeba.

FICAC Lawyer Laisa Lagilevu told High Court Judge Justice Daniel Goundar that they want to consolidate the charges as both Qarase and Weleilakeba's charges were similar in nature, as they both had allegedly conspired to carry out an act that directly allowed them both the allotment of FHL Class A shares.

High Court Judge Justice Daniel Goundar asked Lagilevu if she had the relevant documents that directly link the two accused, to determine whether the consolidation of charges should be justified.

It is alleged that Qarase, while being director of the Fiji Development Bank in 1992, allocated shares to companies owned by his family members without declaring his interest and relationship with the companies.

Lagilevu told the court that while she did not have the document at hand, she can confirm that a meeting allegedly took place between Qarase and Weleilakeba on 30th of September 1992, and that the transaction took place, as there is a document with the Registrar of Companies which proves it.

Justice Goundar however cautioned Lagilevu that she needed to have the document with her as it is of high importance to the case and her submission.

Defence Counsel Qoriniasi Bale asked for further clarification from the Court as to what the consolidation of charges will mean to both his client as well as Weleilakeba, as both have been charged separately and if the consolidation will also mean a joint trial on the conspiracy charge and a separate trial for the remaining charges.

Justice Goundar told the Court that the consolidation of charges will only mean joint information for the conspiracy charge, which will be dealt with in one trial, whereas both the remaining charges for both Qarase and Weleilakeba will be dealt with in separate trials.

Bale said they were unaware of the submission by FICAC to consolidate the charge and asked for more time to allow himself and Weleilakeba's counsel to make submissions on the consolidation of charges.

Former FHL CEO Sitiveni Weleilakeba is represented by Caesar Lateef and has been charged with one count of conspiracy, forgery and uttering forged documents.

Qarase pleaded not guilty to five counts of abuse of office brought against him by the FICAC in February 2008.

It is alleged that in May 2004 Qarase, while being Prime Minister, Minister for Fijian Affairs and Chairman of the Native Lands Trust Board did an arbitrary act by gazetting regulations which gave the NLTB the powers to invest any trust funds held in trust, thereby causing prejudice to the rights of the Fijian Affairs Board.

The case has been adjourned to the 23rd of February for mention.

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