4 Dec 2020

Seven Fijian MPs granted bail after appearing in court to face fraud charges

12:07 pm on 4 December 2020

Several members of Fiji's Parliament have appeared in court facing fraud charges.

The six opposition members and one government MP have been accused by the anti-corruption body of alleged breach of the parliamentary remuneration act.

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Photo: 123RF

In the Suva Magistrates Court were Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) MPs Ratu Suliano Matanitobua, Salote Radrodro, Simione Rasova, Nikolau Nawaikula, Peceli Vosanibola and Adi Litia Qionibaravi. FijiFirst MP Vijendra Prakash was also there.

They are each charged with one count of providing false information to a public servant and obtaining financial advantage.

According to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC), the MPs are alleged to have lied to the acting secretary-general of Parliament over their permanent place of residence in order to have their allowance claims approved.

The group is also alleged to have obtained financial advantages in varying amounts through these false claims for allowances from last July to April this year, which they were not eligible to receive.

It is alleged that a total of $186,749.20 was claimed in allowances by the MPs.

FICAC lawyers Adrian Sharma, Joseph Work, Josanne Pene and Darren Hickes appeared for the State and informed the court in a joint statement that full disclosures had been served to all the accused persons.

Prakash first appeared before magistrate Waleen George and was granted bail with a bail bond of $US2500 and was informed that his next court appearance would be before the chief magistrate as his case was transferred to be heard alongside the other charged MPs.

The rest appeared before chief magistrate Usaia Ratuvili and were also granted bail with a bail bond of $US338.

The accused have all been instructed by the court to report to their nearest police station on the last Friday of each month.

They have also been ordered to surrender their travel documents as a Stop Departure Order has been issued against them.

In June this year, FICAC said it had received the complaint from the Parliament secretariat regarding the alleged breach of the Parliamentary Remunerations Act of 2014.

A second complaint was lodged by a faction of SODELPA also alleging similar breaches by their own members.

The MPs have been released on bail and the matter adjourned to 25 January.