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Laisenia Qarase pleads Not Guilty to Abuse of Office Charges

Media Team   |   05 Mar 2009

Former Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase appeared in the Suva High Court today and pleaded not guilty to five charges of Abuse of Office brought against him by the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption.

He pleaded not guilty before Justice Nazhat Shameem.

FICAC prosecutor Paul Madigan informed the court that prosecution had filed two separate cases and two separate information files which Justice Shameem acknowledged.

In the first case, FICAC alleges that Qarase on 14 May 2004 whilst employed as the Prime Minister, Minister for Fijian Affairs and Chairman of the Native Land Trust Board, did an arbitrary act by gazetting the Native Land (Trust Funds Investment) Regulations 2004, thereby giving the Board unfettered power to invest any trust funds held in trust by them thereby causing prejudice to the rights of the Fijian Affairs Board.

In the second case, (Count One) FICAC alleges that Qarase between January 1992 and February 1995 whilst employed as a Director of Fijian Holdings Limited, member of Fijian Affairs Board and Advisor to the Great Council of Chiefs and being charged with the administrative duties respecting the business or shares of FHL (both “A” and “B” shares), being held for the benefit of indigenous Fijian people, bought 200,000 Class “A” by means of a Qarase family company, Q-Ten Investment’s Ltd, without the knowledge of FHL, FAB or GCC.

Count two, FICAC alleges that Qarase in or about April and May 1992, applied in the name of Q-Ten Investments Ltd for the issue and allotment of Class “A” shares in FHL, in priority to other eligible applicants and in his capacity as a director on the Board of FHL approved the issue and allotment of shares to Q-Ten and failed to disclose his interest in and relationship with Q-Ten to FHL, FAB or GCC, thereby causing prejudice to the rights of Provincial and Tikina Councils, FAB and all other eligible indigenous Fijian people.

Count three, FICAC alleges that Qarase between November 1991 and June 1992, applied in the name of Cicia Plantation Co-op Society Ltd (CPCS) for the issue and allotment of Class “A” shares in FHL and in his capacity as a director approved the issue and allotment of shares to CPCS and failed to disclose his interest in and relation with CPCS to FHL, FAB or GCC, thereby causing prejudice to the rights of Provincial and Tikina Councils, FAB and all other eligible indigenous Fijian people.

Count four FICAC alleges that Qarase in or about February 1992, applied in the name of Mavana Investments Ltd (Mavana) for the issue and allotment of Class “A” shares in FHL and in his capacity as a director approved the issue and allotment of shares to the said Mavana and failed to disclose his interest in and relationship with Mavana to FHL, FAB or GCC, thereby causing prejudice to the rights of Provincial and Tikina Councils, FAB and all other eligible indigenous Fijian people.

Justice Shameem ordered that Qarase’s passport be lodged with the High Court registry and adjourned both cases to May 15 to set a hearing date.