|FORMER MP: Facing more allegations.|
Lekh Ram Vayeshnoi has been in touch to deny he ran off to New Zealand to seek political asylum after failing to pay for $50,000 worth of jewellery with a dud cheque, but other businesses have come forward to say he owes them money as well.
Coupfourpointfive revealed on July the 14th the former Labour Party MP and regime supporter had fled Fiji to Auckland where he was seeking political asylum but had left under a cloud.
Vayeshnoi was accused by a Sigatoka jeweller of taking $50,000 worth of jewellery from his shop, using a bounced cheque to pay for the purchase. The cheque was made out from a bank account that had been closed months earlier. The matter was reported to Sigatoka police but Vayeshnoi had already left the country.
Information obtained by Coupfourpointfive now shows Vayeshnoi is accused by two others from his hometown of Sigatoka of also owing them money. Sources say he took $7000 from a man in Nadrala and $25,000 from a businessman named Sadhu Singh in Cuvu.
Sources say Vayeshnoi called Mr Singh to pick up the repayment from his home in Olosara knowing full well he would be in Auckland that day. When Mr Singh went to his home in May at 3 o'clock, he found the gate closed. A neighbour told him Vayeshnoi had already left for NZ with his wife and son.
The same thing had happened with the Sigatoka jeweller who says he lost $50,000 worth of jewellery to Vayeshnoi. The business man had gone to the bank to cash the cheque only to be told there was no money in the account. Vayeshnoi had gone to New Zealand by then.
The owner of Bhavani Gold Industries Ltd had been a good friend of the former Sports and Youth Minister and had previously cashed his cheques while an MP until the December 2006 coup. In December 2010, Vayeshnoi also gave the shop owner a cheque but post-dated it by six months, telling him to keep it and that he would cash the cheque as per the date on it.
An email signed by a Lehk Ram Vayeshnoi after our July 14th story said "To whom it may concern, There is no truth in your story posted this afternoon regarding allegations of defrauding a jeweller. I have not purchased a single jewelry from Bhavani Jewellers as stated in the story. I am on a holiday visit to NZ and not to seek political asylum as stated in the article. However, it is true that in June 2010 Coup 4.5 had alleged me in the NBF saga without any truth in it."
Vayeshnoi was refering to a story about people who had borrowed money from NBF and had not paid back the funds. On our list was one Lekh Ram who borrowed $23,000 from the NBF’s Sigatoka branch and we had asked the question: Is he the Sigatoka farmer Lekh Ram Vayeshnoi, who represented the FLP from the Nadroga Indian Communal Constituency in 1992, 1995, 1999, 2001 and 2006 elections? Vayeshnoi was quick to write in to say it wasn't him. We took his word for it.
Vayeshonoi also insists he is only holidaying in Auckland. But Coupfourpointfive has it on good authority he is seeking longer residency than that, and that another former Labour Party MP is helping him to apply for political asylum. Vayeshnoi's bid to opt out of Fiji has pretty much been confirmed by the New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key, who has said he is aware of reports about the application but cannot discuss individual cases.
While the reported fraud has left people in Fiji upset, in New Zealand people there are angry at what they say is Vayeshnoi's gall to seek political asylum in spite of his very close association and history (he once described Bainimarama and the 2006 coup as God-sent) with the military dictatorship.