10 Oct 2006

Fiji judge advises assessors in agriculture ministry scam

4:13 pm on 10 October 2006

The Fiji High Court judge presiding over the 13-million US dollar agriculture ministry scam trial has ordered the five assessors in the case not to be influenced by outside comments related to court proceedings.

Radio Legend reports that Justice Nazhat Shameem was referring to recent statements by the military calling on the government to resign because of revelations in the trial about the alleged involvement of current and former cabinet ministers in the scam.

Justice Shameem said it seemed a number of people were interested in the case and had expressed their views on it through the media but the assessors must disregard these.

She also told the media to be very cautious in reporting comments made by various people on the case.

The former head of the agriculture ministry, Peniasi Kunatuba, is defending himself in the High Court on two charges of abuse of office in relation to the scam.

Police investigator Inspector Raj Kumar testified today that in a caution interview, Kunatuba has told him that some of the money deposited in his personal account was overseas travel allowances and donations to his religious ministry.

But he said he could not remember who actually gave that money.