DOUBTS ABOUT FIJI COUP LEADER SPEIGHT’S LEGAL REPRESENTATIVE, MORE DELAY

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By Seema Sharma and Irene Manueli

SUVA, Fiji Islands (June 12, 2001 - The Fiji Times/PINA Nius Online)---Fiji police are investigating George Speight's designated lawyer Navin Naidu after contradictory reports about his credentials and qualifications surfaced.

Assistant Commissioner Moses Driver said they had received a complaint from the Director of Public Prosecutions Office over documents filed by Mr. Naidu when he sought temporary admission to defend Speight in the treason trial.

Last year's Fiji coup front man Speight and 12 others accused of treason have again been remanded in custody. They are to appear in two weeks when Mr. Temo will review the Speights’ search for a lawyer.

This is the third time in 14days that Mr. Temo has adjourned the preliminary inquiry because of the Speights’ lack of representation.

The preliminary inquiry was to have started on May 29, but the process was halted after George Speight opted to look for a new lawyer.

Assistant Commissioner Driver said police would need help from the London police as well as a formal statement from the University of London, which Mr. Naidu claims to have graduated from with a law degree.

Mr. Naidu has said he is originally from Singapore but is now a lawyer in the United States.

According to a letter from the University of London dated June 8, Mr. Naidu's certificate had discrepancies in the wording, format and content and was not issued by the university.

Its head of registry, Jonathan Seddon, said:

"We do have a record of a student named Navin Naidu whose date of birth, 9 January 1948 matches the date that you (law society) provided by telephone. He registered in May 1987 for the Bachelors of Laws degree as an external student. According to our records, however, Mr. Naidu did not complete the requirements for the award of this degree."

Mr. Naidu could not be reached for comment. However, Speight's elder brother, Sam, said the family supported Mr. Naidu's efforts to represent his younger brothers George and James Speight despite questions regarding his qualifications.

Acting Chief Registrar Musuka Tabete said Mr. Naidu could pursue his application by filing proper documents according to provisions of the Legal Practitioners Act.

Chief Magistrate Salesi Temo granted Speight an extra month to find a lawyer.

The adjournment was granted after George Speight said he had only minutes earlier been informed that his lawyer’s application for admission to the High Court had been rejected.

Speight then launched an attack on the isolation of the temporary prison on Nukulau, off Suva, where he and others are held. He said it made it "virtually impossible" to consult a lawyer.

"In the interest of a fair trial, I must lean backwards to see that the rights of the accused persons are respected," Mr. Temo said.

"I will therefore, with utmost reluctance, grant George Speight and Jim Speight one final chance of finding adequate legal representation."

They were asked by the Chief Magistrate to look for a lawyer in Australia, New Zealand, England or Fiji, "and make sure that they are qualified in their own country."

For additional reports from the Fiji Times, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Fiji Times.

Pina8

 

PEOPLES COALITION GOVERNMENT Suva, Fiji Islands

 

NEWS RELEASE June 12, 2001

NAVIN NAIDU A FRAUD?

Terrorist George Speight’s `lawyer’ is no lawyer after all.

Yesterday Naidu was denied permission to practice in Fiji temporarily. The rejection of his application came in light of the fact that the University of London, from where Naidu claims he has received his law degree, denied that Naidu had graduated with a law degree.

Today the Fiji Times has published extracts from the London University’s letter, which says that one Navin Naidu had enrolled as an external law student in May 1987. Naidu had presented a certificate, which stated that he graduated on 14 July 1987, merely 2 months after enrollment.

London University stated that the signature on the certificate and the certificate itself presented by Naidu "bears little resemblance to a genuine University of London certificate and contains many discrepancies in wording, format and content which indicate that it is not genuine. Specifically I can confirm that the signature on the certificate is not the signature of the vice-chancellor of the University of London at that time."

The Peoples Coalition Government Internet site had earlier questioned Naidu’s legal existence (see http://www.pcgov.org.fj/hot_press/no836.htm).

Yesterday, however, the Speight family defended the fraud and argued that he should be allowed to defend the terrorist brothers despite the lack of legal qualifications. The Fiji Times quotes one Speight brother as saying: "All we’re interested in is his ability to argue and present the case with as much talent, fire and passion that he has so far displayed. In the end what use are legal degrees if a lawyer cannot represent or argue with as much clarity and passion as Naidu."

One civil servant reading the paper this morning remarked: "What else can one expect from a family of criminals." The reference was apparently to Speight’s father who had been earlier implicated in a major financial scam at a local dairy factory where he worked. While he was cleared of the allegations, most believe that the process clearing him was a scam itself.

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