The lawyer for Malolo Island landowners in Fiji says construction of a resort by a Chinese developer had started well before the company submitted its environmental impact assessment.
Malolo villagers have spoken out about environmental damage from the construction, demanding the project cease.
Kenneth Chambers told Fiji Village the Department of Environment had been aware of Freesoul Real Estate's's non-compliance with legislative requirements.
Yet, he added, nothing was done to stop the development of Freesoul's project on Malolo which was underway in May last year.
Dr Chambers said Freesoul had submitted its application to the government in mid June.
He also claimed the department issued four-stop work orders from as early as June last year.
Fiji's Environment Minister Mahendra Reddy told FBC News that officials and police were on Malolo to ensure no further activity was being carried out by the developer.
The office of the Director of Public Prosecutions has sanctioned charges against Freesoul for failing to comply with a prohibition notice issued by the Environment Ministry last year.
But the developer Freesoul has claimed its project is legitimate and it has been following due process.
However, Dr Chambers said that between May and September last year the hillside was stripped, big areas of mangroves destroyed, two channels smashed through the seabed and a timber walkway built.
He said the villagers of Solevu had objected to the second iteration of Freesoul's assessment in October last year.
He added the Environment Dept responded on the 30 January this year.
Dr Chambers said this was a month after the department had approved Freesoul's assessment in December last year and the appeal period of 21 days had expired.
He said if the government were going to prosecute Freesoul back in September 2018 for breaches of the Environment Act someone needs to tell them it is now February 2019.
Dr Chambers said the government had been aware of all this since the 30 of August 2018, when he sent them photographs of the construction works by Freesoul on Malolo.
He said inspections at the site were carried out by the government but nothing was done to stop the project.