26 Sep 2006

Fiji court told of dual accounts in agriculture ministry scam

3:29 pm on 26 September 2006

The trial relating to the 13-million US dollar scam in Fiji's agriculture ministry has begun with the Suva High Court being told that the former head of the ministry, Peniasi Kunatuba, held two separate bank accounts in which to deposit taxpayer funds.

Radio Legend reports that the submission was made to Justice Nazhat Shameem by the state prosecutor, Daniel Gounder.

Mr Gounder said 89 cheques were issued to Suncourt Hardware by the agriculture ministry allegedly authorised by Kunatuba under the interim government's farming assistance scheme in 2001.

He said the cheques were issued even though there were no applications for such assistance from people eligible for it.

Mr Gounder also revealed that some cheques were issued to other companies including Morris Hedstroms, R C Manubhai and Asco Motors.

As well, some cheques and local purchase orders issued exceeded the amount the head of the agriculture ministry was allowed to authorize.

The prosecution also alleges that the ministry used taxpayer funds to purchase a home gym set which was delivered to Kunatuba's home.

Justice Shameem has ordered mote than 30 high profile witnesses who have been subpoenaed to give evidence, including the prime minister Laisenia Qarase, not to leave the country while the trial is under way.