24 Feb 2005

Fiji investment image takes a knock

10:33 am on 24 February 2005

Fiji's investment image has suffered a setback following the publication of an article in a US newspaper.

A California couple have described their investment experience in Fiji in the last four years as hell.

Gary and Helen Stephens say when they bought a three-hectare beachfront property near Savusavu on Vanua Levu in 2001, they ran into a well-connected but shady developer and a corrupt police force.

Gary Stephens claims that between February 2003 and February 2004, policemen and security guards attacked him at a roadblock.

His wife Helen was arrested when she parked near the roadblock and walked to their home.

The Stephens say they were jailed twice and their passports taken because they challenged the developer who tried to defraud them and other landowners out of access to their properties.

They say a government official was in cahoots with the developer because land records were altered in the Titles Office.

They say they want to return to Fiji to sell their property, but fear doing so because they could be arrested.

The Stephens say they want to warn others about the perils of investing in a country like Fiji, where corruption can be rampant.