26 Sep 2006

High Court rejects application to drop 13 million US dollar scam charges in Fiji

10:15 am on 26 September 2006

The Suva High Court has rejected an application that charges of abuse of office against the former head of the agriculture ministry in the 13-million US dollar scam case should be dropped.

The application was made by Peniasi Kunatuba's lawyer, Tevita Fa, on the grounds that the charges were signed by the director of public prosecutions, Josaia Naigulevu, who was not qualified to hold the post.

It stems from a separate application before the High Court brought by the assistant director of public prosecutions, Kemueli Tunidau, and Suva lawyer Abhay Singh, that Mr Naigulevu was not qualified to be the DPP because he was never admitted to the Fiji bar.

But Justice Nazhat Shameem ruled that papers filed with the court showed that Mr Naigulevu was admitted to the

New Zealand bar in 1988 and practised law there before joining the Fiji DPP's Office.

She ruled that in this case the presumption of validity applies and the trial should proceed.

Justice Shameem ordered that the prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, and more than 30 other witnesses including ministers and public servants must not to leave the country as they have been subpoenaed to give witness in the case which gets under way today.