15 Aug 2007

Former head of Fiji Fisheries Ministry found guilty of abuse of office

9:04 am on 15 August 2007

The former head of Fiji's fisheries ministry has been jailed for six months but the sentence has been suspended for a year.

Justice Gerard Winter handed down the sentence after finding Vuetasau Buatoka guilty of abuse of office three years ago for a allowing a fishing company to carry on fishing when its licence had expired.

Justice Winter also ordered Buatoka to do 100 hours of community work.

The former director of fisheries, Maciu Lagibalavu, was acquitted on a charge of aiding and abetting Buatoka in the abuse of office charge.

Although three of the five assessors found Lagibalavu guilty, Justice Winter set him free saying the prosecution had failed to prove that he was a party to any of the discussions in the abuse case because he was away from office.

On Buatoka's conviction, Justice Winter said abuse of office was a serious crime and Buatoka had subverted the checks and balances he was duty bound to uphold, favoured one company against others and deprived the state of almost 30-thousand US dollars in licensing fees.