23 May 2007

Efforts in Fiji to avoid repeat of agriculture ministry scam

5:11 pm on 23 May 2007

Stringent measures are reported to have been taken in Fiji's agriculture ministry to ensure that the 13-million US dollar scam which too place there six years ago is never repeated.

Radio Legend reports that this is the assurance given by the interim agriculture minister, Jainendra Kumar.

Mr Kumar says he even had to get the assistance of the military spokesman, Major Neumi Leweni, and other soldiers to help with investigations before implementing proper audit systems.

He says it is not possible to start investigating a situation with the very people who have created it, so he had to seek outside assistance and the best source was the military.

Two prominent businessmen including a former Lord Mayor of Suva, Dhansukh Lal Bhika, were arrested and charged on Tuesday with conspiracy to commit a felony and defraud the state of almost 2.2 million US dollars.

The scam involved the bulk purchase of agricultural implements under the Laisenia Qarase-led interim administration's Framing Assistance Scheme for indigenous Fijians in 2000 and 2001.

In a High Court trial of the former head of the agriculture ministry after which Peniasi Kunatuba was jailed, it was claimed that the scheme was used to buy votes in he 2001 election.