|Weleilakeba arriving at trial last week. pic Fiji Live|
The trial of Fiji's former deposed prime minister Laisenia Qarase resumes today and there is no avoiding the question: Did star witness Sitiveni Weleilakeba and his lawyer, Qoroniasi Bale, cut a deal with Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption.
Qarase is accused of facilitating and allowing the purchase of Class A FHL shares for certain companies when he was director of FHL, financial advisor of the Fijian Affairs Board and advisor to the Great Council of Chiefs.
The trial got underway last week with Sitiveni Welielakeba, the former managing director and secretary of Fijian Holdings Limited, appearing for the state and being questioned about a letter written to him by Qarase on November 20, 1991 on behalf of Cicia Plantation Co-op Society Limited.
Weleilakeba confirmed receiving the letter signed by Qarase who was a Cicia Plantation board director at that time of the application for FHL shares, including the payment for the shares.
The court heard the board resolved the allotment of Class A shares to four companies including Cicia Plantation when none of the board members declared an interest in the subject matter of that decision.
Weleilakeba was also questioned about a letter written by Qarase using the address of the Fiji Development Bank to FHL on an application to purchase shares from FHL for Mavana Investment Limited.
In the letter, Mavana Investment Limited, of which Qarase was a director, applied to purchase 200,000 A Class shares at $1 that would be paid through an FDB cheque. Qarase is charged with six counts of abuse of office and three of discharge of duty with respect to property in which he had a private interest.
FICAC last year decided to drop its case against Sitiveni Waleilakeba with Qarase's original lawyer, Qoroniasi Bale, later withdrawing from representing the SDL leader.
In the event Qarase is convicted, it is likely to be on the evidence of his former close associate who has turned state witness. Given the political circumstances the details of that deal with FICAC is a matter of interest to the people of Fiji.