Thursday, March 04, 2010

Bizarre Plot to Assassinate: Ballu Khan

Michael Field -
04 March 2010

Ballu Khan
Fiji Times

A bizarre plot to assassinate Fiji military strongman Voreqe Bainimarama with bombs, runaway cars or food poisoning was led by a New Zealand millionaire businessman, a Fiji High Court justice has ruled.

Yesterday Justice Paul Madigan pointed to businessman Ballu Khan, of Auckland, as the principal conspirator as he convicted eight others of their role in the plot.

"I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt each of you conspired with others and Ballu Khan to murder Commodore Bainimarama," Justice Madigan said.

"I convict each of you of the felony conspiracy to commit murder."

Five of the convicted men were former special forces soldiers working as Mr Khan's bodyguards.

But Mr Khan said last night that the judge was wrong in law and in fact. "He has made a blatant error. I was not even on trial."

Mr Khan was arrested and severely beaten by authorities two years ago, but won a permanent stay of proceedings against him.

In theory, he cannot be retried. However, Fiji courts now work by military decree after the abrogation of the constitution last year.

Justice Madigan, who was appointed by military decree, heard evidence from Fiji Military Intelligence that Mr Khan was going to use arms and explosives from New Zealand.

It was alleged the New Zealand high commission knew of the plot and supported it.

The plotting was said to have taken place in Mr Khan's Suva home – something he denied last night. "We never planned anything, they [the military] came up with the plan and it was like they themselves were planning something. We were the collateral in case something went wrong."

Major Isireli Narawa told the court he and another soldier recommended to the plotters that Commodore Bainimarama be assassinated by a fatal collision with his motorcade or by a sniper attack, so as to draw more information from the alleged plotters. They also recommended food poisoning. The plot was said to have been developed in 2007, eight months after Commodore Bainimarama's coup.

Other than Mr Khan, its main plotters were said to be paramount chief Inoke Takiveikata, and former Fiji spy service head Metuisela Mua. They were first arrested in November 2007, along with Mr Khan.

Major Narawa said Takiveikata told him money was sent to New Zealand to buy the weapons.

Lance Corporal Peniasi Kuli said he went to a meeting at Mr Khan's house. The arms, he said, were to be supplied by former indigenous nationalist politician Apisai Tora who was to get them from New Zealand.

Corporal Kuli said Mr Khan would provide the explosives from New Zealand. They would be used to blow up Nadi International Airport and the Monasavu dam.

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