Double Speak: Khaiyum now says RBF complained to police about Chaudhry
Speaking at a press conference after charges were laid against Chaudhry, Attorney-General Sayed-Khaiyum said investigation against Chaudhry is different from the inquiry that was held by government in 2008 as police investigated this matter after a complaint by the Reserve Bank of Fiji.
Here is what he had said in a press statement in March 2008:
Good morning ladies and gentlemen
Thank you for being here so early.
As you are aware following much speculation in the media about allegations against the Finance Minister, Mr. Chaudhry, the Prime Minister took steps to clear the air on this issue once and for all.
Despite the clearance last year by FIRCA in a report to the Prime Minister, allegations by the media and certain, usual individuals against the Finance Minister and the Government continued.
So in the interest of transparency, good governance and to dispel any untruths the Prime Minister on his own initiative identified and set up a three member independent team to carry out an inquiry to yet again scrutinize Mr. Chaudhry’s tax details.
The team as you are also aware started its work on Friday morning.
The terms of reference for the team were:
1. To establish whether the tax assessment by FIRCA in respect of Mr. Chaudhry between 2000 and 2006 was carried out in accordance with the Income Tax Act and any other relevant tax laws of Fiji; and,
2. To establish whether there were any breaches of the Exchange Control Act by Mr. Chaudhry between 2000 and 2006 in relation to the tax assessment carried out by FIRCA.
The team was headed by Mr. Bruce Cowley. Mr. Cowley is a partner in the law firm of Minter Ellison in Brisbane Australia. He specializes in corporate law and governance. He is familiar with the laws in Fiji as he has carried out a number of assignments in Fiji since the SVT Government days. He is also a member of the International Bar Association.
The second member of the team was Mr. Russell Postle. Mr. Postle is a partner in the accounting firm of BDO Kendalls in Brisbane Australia. He is a tax specialist and is a member of the Forensic Accountants Special Group of the Institute of Accountants in Australia.
The third and final member of the team was Ms Taufa Vakatale. Ms Vakatale is an educationist, a former senior civil servant, a politician and was our first female Deputy Prime Minister. She is currently a member of the public accounts committee and a respected member of our community.
The team completed its assignment yesterday afternoon and handed the report to the Prime Minister late yesterday afternoon.
As the Prime Minister stated the independent inquiry team’s report would be made public in the interest of transparency, accountability and good governance.
This is what we are doing this morning.
The Prime Minister could have simply given you copies of the executive summary but he has decided to make available the entire report.
The executive summary addresses the many allegations that have been raised in the media.
The independent inquiry team has concluded that:
· ‘..the tax assessments by FIRCA in respect of Mr. Chaudhry between 2000 and 2006 were carried out in accordance with the Tax Act and other relevant laws of Fiji; and,
· The committee has not identified any breaches of the Exchange Control Act by Mr. Chaudhry between 2000-2006.
Let the Government make this very clear, this level of scrutiny and the fact that the findings into the confidential tax details of a Government member or any citizen of our country has been made public is unprecedented.
Yet, no previous Government, no previous Prime Minister has had the courage to do what this Government, what Prime Minister Bainimarama has done.
Yet, despite this initiative some people are still attempting to create doubts in the minds of the public about this Government’s genuine intentions to be totally fair, impartial and transparent.
The usual suspects were calling for investigations in Mr. Chaudhry’s tax details. Now that we have done this, the same people are making allegations about the inquiry, its scope and the respected and professional members of the team.
It is quite apparent from the utterances of those such as Qarase, Kenneth Zinck, Mick Beddoes and Pramod Rae and of course some from the media organizations that, despite this genuine initiative by the Prime Minister, they will do everything and grasp at anything to create doubts about the inquiry.
Last night on television a very undignified and disrespectful Pramod Rae took shots at every member of the team, rather embarrassingly grasping at straws, alleging collusion on the part of Ms. Taufa Vakatale who is a highly respected and dignified member of our community. He did not demonstrate any decorum or finesse.
He also tried to create doubts in the publics mind by questioning Mr. Cowley’s credibility because he works for Minter Ellison in Brisbane, Australia. His feeble reasoning was that I worked for that law firm as well….yes I did work for the Minter Ellison Sydney office some ten years ago ….I did not even know Mr. Cowley then.
In fact if we were to adopt for a moment Rae’s logic then we would say that because Justice Gwen Philips worked for the law firm of Munro Leys she will when lawyers from that firm appear before her, treat them favorably; we would say that when lawyers from DPP appear before Justice Nazhat Shameem they will have it easy because Justice Shameem worked in that office; we would say that some activists are only critical of the Government because their spouses, or friends have been charged by FICAC; and; we would say that FDB staff and operations would not have been subject to scrutiny by the Qarase Government simply because he was the former CEO of FDB.
Pramod Rae also tries in vain to draw a relation between Mr. Postle who is a partner in BDO Kendall Brisbane Australia and my aunty Dr. Nur Bano Ali who runs a BDO franchise in Fiji. Anyone who knows about such international franchised accounting firms would know that these firms operate independently and professionally. Everyone knows that Dr. Ali was a member of Qarase’s Think Tank. She was on numerous boards appointed by Qarase’s Government. Indeed she is a close friend of Qarase.
It is evident that the likes of Mick Beddoes and Pramod Rae have not had much exposure to the commercial world. They obviously have no grasp of how real professionals operate. That is most unfortunate in particular if they profess to be leaders in a modern nation state.
They like most critics cannot focus on issues. They, as have most sections of the media engaged in the personalization of issues and matters. In Fiji now, personal attacks and personalization of matters have become the norm. They have become the norm because of the lack of credibility of the critics.
The likes of Pramod Rae, Mick Beddoes and Pecel Kinivuwai will always try these little tricks, will try to rubbish and belittle all genuine attempts by this Government to bring about more transparency.
If I were to follow Pramod Rae’s warped line of thinking then I wouldn’t entertain any queries from Fiji TV because the news director there is the partner of Kamal Iyer who was or is employed by the NFP office. In fact they both live adjacent to the NFP office in Suva where NFP members gather regularly for their grog sessions.
Should this fact cast any doubts in the minds of the public about Fiji TV news….I don’t know…the public is there to judge the frequency and slant of NFP news for themselves on Fiji TV.
On the other hand we have Qarase calling for the Finance Minister’s resignation pending the inquiry when he himself did not remove members of his party who were charged for serious offences against the State. He did not remove persons from office who were instrumental in undermining the Constitution through the Reconciliation Bill. He appointed persons to ministerial positions who were debarred from practicing as lawyers and/or who had questions of credibility and criminality hanging over them.
These are the sorts of double standards that do not bring any credibility to the utterances of these persons.
Unfortunately the media no longer bothers to analyze such matters – no comparison between then and now. They only provide reactive, sensationalist and soap opera based stories.
As far as the Prime Minister is concerned this matter has now ended.
The Government undertook to facilitate an independent inquiry and it has done exactly that and the report is available to all.
The Prime Minister has considered the report and is satisfied once again that there were no breaches of laws. The Finance Minister who is on leave will be back at work next Monday.
Should you have any further queries regarding the Finance Minister’s private finances then these questions should be directed to him.
The Government’s concern was whether any taxation laws had been broken…it hasn’t been.
Anything prior to the taxation matter is a concern for Mr. Chaudhry and the Fiji Labour Party to explain.
This Government has played its part. The matter is over as far as we are concerned…and in the process it’s become quite obvious that some people didn’t quite want the truth they wanted speculation over an alleged scandal which they could prolong in the media to feed their political expediency.
They do not want an independent report, they do not want facts, they want a report that will say what they want to hear. They had pre-determined the matter long ago. They are opportunists.
We will not stoop to that level….we will provide answers for the people of Fiji…but with dignity and transparency.