4 Sep 2004

Fiji attorney general accused of corruption

8:19 am on 4 September 2004

Fiji's senate has heard serious allegations of corruption and collusion at the Revenue and Customs Authority, some of which involve the attorney general, Qoriniasi Bale.

The allegations have been made by the Labour senator Felix Anthony.

Senator Anthony has cited figures alleging that Mr Bale was given a tax refund of more than US$14,000 - even though he owed nearly US$6,000 in taxes to the authority, dating back to 1994.

Mr Anthony said Mr Bale's tax returns for 2001 were mysteriously amended three times to show that the amount owing, was nil.

As well, Senator Anthony said the authority's chief executive, Sila Kotobalavu, had intervened, to stop the tax audit of a sum involving US$500,000 in the account of the general manager of the Merchant Bank of Fiji.

In another case, he said the authority had given a tax refund of a million dollars to a fishing company, Solander, for expenses that were never incurred.

For the government, Senator Ahmed Ali said the allegations were malicious and fabricated, and were rejected, when first made in an unsigned document, called The Destruction of Fiji's Revenue Collection.

But Senator Anthony said the matter won't be allowed to rest.