FIJI POLICE REOPEN COUP PROBE AFTER ALLEGATIONS

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SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, Jan. 5) – Fiji police have reopened files relating to allegations of plots to bomb Nadi International Airport and attack then Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry in 2000.

The Fiji Police Force confirmed today that the investigations were continuing and some of the files in relation to the coup in 2000 have been reconsidered.

Police are still conducting interviews of the seven witnesses named in a statement by former nationalist Josaia Waqabaca late last year about plans to bomb Nadi International Airport and other strategic locations before the May 2000 coup.

Police Commissioner Andrew Hughes had earlier said investigations were continuing and officers had 11 witnesses to interview.

Hughes said he plans to call a press conference later this week to reveal further details and progress of the investigation, police spokeswoman Corporal Prashila Narayan said.

Waqabaca publicly revealed that two prominent Fijian business executives were allegedly behind the plans and offered money to have the plans executed.

Hughes had earlier in a statement said that a lot that is being said inappropriately publicly was dealt with and yet to be finalised by the courts and prosecution.

Waqabaca alleged the two businessmen collected money from the business community to finance people to carry out the bombings. However, he said they were not paid enough money to execute the plans.

Meanwhile, Hughes denied recent criticism that police investigators have been slow to probe the 2000 coup.

"Since my taking office as Commissioner of Police in July 2003, there has been no attempt by senior police officers to disrupt the investigations," Hughes said. "We have 21 officers assigned to these cases and I have approved an extra two senior detectives to assist in finalising the cases.

"In so far as the time it has taken for police to complete this investigation is concerned, I need not remind you that the events under investigation commenced in August 1999 and proceeded until November 2000, some 16 months of chaos, before order was finally restored to Fiji. During that time multifarious offences were committed by a large number of citizens ranging in severity from minor to the most heinous criminal acts," Hughes said.

Police records show that over 2000 people were processed, 782 have been charged and convicted for a total of 28 offence types in the Penal Code.

Commissioner Hughes said in his 30-year policing career he had not come across such a complex case that took police more than five years to untangle.

"The police officers also frustrated by the reluctance of many witnesses to cooperate because of fear of reprisals or because of traditional or family tie loyalties subverting wider civil responsibilities, unrelenting media attention and calls for the investigation to be completely closed by some sectors of the society," he said. "The investigation against seven individuals, six companies and one organisation alleged to have been involved in the financing of the coup is nearing completion as two files on individuals are the DPP while all remaining files will be forwarded to DPP next week."

January 6, 2006

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