#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: Justice in coup coup land

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Justice in coup coup land

By Russell Hunter, former editor-in-chief and publisher of the Fiji Sun

Justice moves in mysterious ways in Frank’s Fiji.

Take for example the strange case of Mahendra Chaudhry. 

Himself the victim of George Speight’s coup which ended his prime ministership in 2000, he came full circle by returning as finance minister in 2006 as a result of Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama’s coup.

At the time a close intimate and favourite of the dictator, he made the mistake of promising a growing economy with billions of dollars flowing to the illegal government through taxation – the Fiji Water Company in particular was targeted – and then failing to deliver.

But that realisation came later. Meanwhile Mr Chaudhry had no lack of political enemies and it was they who began surreptitiously circulating documents that showed Frank’s financial messiah as somewhat less than pure.

Those documents inevitably came into the hands of the media – in the persons of London-based former Fiji journalist Victor Lal and myself. That was in August 2007 and we need to go back a little further to understand this bizarre story.

When he and his cabinet hostages were released by a prison-bound George Speight, Mr Chaudhry embarked on a worldwide tour spreading the word about the legitimacy of his cause as an elected prime minister and raising funds for the “poor Indians” suffering in Fiji as a result of Speight’s abortive coup. And indeed there were many of these.

It’s not quite clear exactly how much was raised as Mr Chaudhry received the money – much of it cash – himself. What is clear is that no “poor Indians” ever benefited from it though a few rather well-heeled Indians did handsomely.

Lal began a series of articles that appeared in the Fiji Sun of which I was then chief executive officer and editor-in-chief but for legal reasons we were not at that stage ready to identify Mr Chaudhry as the “minister with overseas millions.

But as Lal’s inquiries continued the story took weird twists and turns. Not least of these is the still unexplained mystery of why the Indian consulate in Sydney was the conduit for A$700,000 to the Chaudhry bank account. 

Then there was the $50,000 gift from Mr Chaudhry to his daughter, the shopping trips in Sydney, the house in Brisbane bought for cash – all coming from the same source, the overseas donors who had generously contributed to help Fiji’s “poor Indians.” Lal himself was one of those donors.

I received a visit late one night in January 2008 from a person I knew only slightly. This person handed me a plain brown envelope and after a few pleasantries left. Even now nearly three years later I cannot reveal the identity of this person.

The envelope contained the full tax records of Mahendra Chaudhry revealing that the authorities knew about his millions all along but in effect had done not very much to bring him to account. The fact that Mr Chaudhry was at that time the minister responsible for the taxation authority may or may not have been relevant.

The first thing I needed to do was to get this explosive collection of documents out of the country before somebody came looking for them. (Someone eventually did). We assumed that anything addressed to Lal from Fiji would be opened and so the air freight package was addressed to a Father Murphy who lived near to Lal’s then residence in Oxford. These became known by the codename the  Murphy papers in emails between Lal and myself as we suspected - rightly as it turned out -  that our emails were being read.
Lal received the Murphy papers and immediately knew, as I did, that here was the final piece of the jigsaw. We published in full across five pages on Sunday February 24, 2008 and I was abducted from my home by soldiers the next day, held overnight and put on a flight to Sydney the next morning. I am still prohibited from entering Fiji.

The junta immediately went into damage control. After at first denying any knowledge of my whereabouts the illegal Minister for Home Affairs, ex-army commander and dismally failed politician Ratu Epeli Ganilau confessed that I had been deported as a threat to national security. That in itself is another story.

Meanwhile, the illegal attorney general Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum secretly called in a couple of lawyers from Australia and announced – after they had completed a two-day inquiry and left the country – that Mahendra Chaudhry had done nothing illegal, wrong or even improper. All was well in coup coup land.
Now, however, things are dramatically different. 

Mr Chaudhry’s unblemished character is under siege as he stands accused of tax evasion, money laundering and providing false information to the tax authorities – all of these based on the very information that Lal and I published more than two years ago.

So how does a completely innocent man two years ago become an accused felon today – when no new information has been brought to light?

In Frank’s Fiji, that’s not so difficult. Anybody previously proved innocent can quickly find themselves assumed guilty by the simple means of speaking out against the illegal regime.
And that’s what Mahendra Chaudhry did, seeking perhaps to reposition himself as leader of the Fiji Labour Party in advance of any election.

Other political hopefuls are no doubt watching and learning.
This then is the regime that routinely castigates Samoa for it’s pro-democracy stand. It’s a regime of traitors who regard the courts as instruments of control and persecution rather than purveyors of justice.

And that’s not all. It’s the regime that promised to stamp out corruption and introduce transparency and accountability. And much else besides.


Anonymous said...

Well said Mr Hunter....as a former Fiji resident (I too had to leave very recently due to threats made to my person)...I recall clearly the days when Chaudhry was exposed, only to have the Govt. cover it up in a matter of days.....it is sad that the Fiji judicial system has been resorted to being a persecution framework, where cases are being called if you so much as utter slight dissent against the current regime...and Chaudhry's case is a result of this, supporter turned rogue! Once costing them thousands of dollars to set up a committee that exonerated him of any guilt; they use another system to find him guilty for something that should have been dealt with initially and with transparency. It confirms that the regime and the Attorney General in particular, is nothing but a dumbwitted idiot that doesn't know his left from right...and wastes more of taxpayers money, that the economy can ill-afford anyways! A futile exercise in any event, and further confirmation of the Banana Republic in existence.

what's new? said...

indians ripping off indians? what's new?

Anonymous said...

With all the mud that Victor is raking up about the Mara-Ganilau Mafioso and Voreqe's role as the front man, the word is spreading. Frank is the puppet of the biggest fraudsters hiding behind the curtains since Fij's independence.

Frank is not concerned about returning Fiji to liberal democracy. Its about saving his posteria and those also of his puppet-masters.They will go to any lengths to cling to the power they could not obtain thru the ballot box.Fiji's socio-economic interests is just not factored into the equation at all.

Now Chaudhary has suddenly become guilty in their eyes.They've turned on one of their own to not only deter a leadership alternative, but to divert attention away from their murkey affairs with Lauan business ventures using fraudulently obtained public money.

This bunch are not reformers, they are criminal fraudsters who know that the public know about their corrupt dealings.Presently, they can be likened to a bunch of bank robbers held up in a building and who've captured some hostages.In the panic they are uttering wild threats and self-indicting statements. But the public and the world are watching as they scream their justifications for their immoral act.

Thank you Samoa, you have been the true friend of the Fiji people throughout this whole episode so far.To Michael Somare and your corrupt Melanesian nations, thanks for nothing.To you little countries like Kribati and Tuvalu,what is your business here? Haven't you got more productive duties to engage yourself with?

mark manning said...

Thank God for free speech, journalism and honourable reporters :-

Katalina Balawanilotu said...

Not surprising, all the characteristics of dictatorship rule known the world over and Mahendra Chaudhry hasn't earned an ounce of credibility.

Anonymous said...

Vinaka Russel. Thanks for your contribution and part you played in presenting to the world information on these treasonous low low lives.

It is indeed unfortunate that you and your family were treated badly in our country we are ashamed of it...your persecutors deserve to be hanged

Anonymous said...

Well what we see here is just the garden variety dictatorship that has been the plague of human history. The law is what Frank and iArse say the law is. Very simple indeed. There is no reasoning with this regime. You side with the dictator you are entitled to commit crimes with impunity (Remember Mr. Kean) you speak up against him, you get your butt kicked. The problem is, that this creates a climate that is neither producing economic growth nor does it help with political credibility or regional and international reputation.

So where do we go from here? Will Chaudhry go to jail with his (or his son's) ambitions to bounce back into politics squashed once and for all? Or will he fight and use his considerable influence to organize some serious resistance? And what if Chaudhry spills his beans in desperation? He must know a thing or two and he must have a couple of extremely interesting documents that show the money flow into the pockets of Frank and senior members of the junta. Whatever the outcome, we will see a very interesting story unfold in the next couple of months.

Anonymous said...

Any information on the junta Chodary may have is now worthless. Baini is firmly in control and is prepared to go the distance; unless someone kicks his ass out.

I only hope Chodary has learnt his lesson and be prepared mobilise the people to fight against this regime.

Radiolucas said...

I loved Kaicolo's succinct and amusing quote:

"For my corrupt friends anything.. for my enemies the 'Law'."

It is a fiction to suggest that the two investigations considered "different" aspects of Chaudhry's tax liabilties - one would have thought that such a "thorough" investigation in 2008 would have considered the same issues as they now say are so relevant in 2010.

Or is the only thing now that Chaudhry is no longer friends with Frank and Aiyaz?

Where does their corrupt hypocrisy end?

I for one cannot wait for the day that Aiyaz, Frank and his cronies are held to trial for their treason and other crimes against Fiji.

Anonymous said...

Aiase say it's subjudice to discuss chodary.

Chodary will mitigate, it is the rights of the soldiers to be back paid for what was rightfully theirs.

I forgot to laugh!