CHAUDHRY CLAIMS EXONERATION BY INDIA BANK

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SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, Jan. 19) – India's EXIM Bank has denied that Fiji Opposition Leader Mahendra Chaudhry tried to get a commission from the FJ$86 million [US$50.2 million] loan it approved for the restructure of the sugar industry.

The revelation was made in a letter tabled by Chaudhry at a press conference in Suva today.

Chaudhry has also initiated legal proceedings against Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase who alleged in Parliament that the Opposition Leader and his agents sought a commission from EXIM Bank when the loan application was being processed.

Chaudhry said the letter revealed that it was not the EXIM Bank's policy to pay commission on any loans or lending and therefore the question of anyone obtaining the commission did not arise.

"I denied these allegations in Parliament and subsequently the Prime Minister repeated these allegations outside Parliament and I challenged him to produce evidence or apologize," Chaudhry said. "He did neither and I therefore was compelled to take the matter to the court. I have sued the Prime Minister for the defamation and in the mean time I have written to the EXIM Bank through the Indian High Commission to clarify the matter."

The Opposition Leader tabled a letter from the Indian High Commission dated 30th December 2005, which shows that EXIM Bank denies that neither Chaudhry nor anyone on his behalf attempted to obtain commission from them on the sugar industry infrastructure loan.

"I am quite disturbed by the Prime Minister's baseless and false accusations under the cover of parliamentary privilege. He has tried to character assassinate me not only on the issue of this nature but also on important national issues like land negotiations, mahogany and on constitutional matters," the Opposition Leader said. "In my view Qarase should be more responsible in his conduct and stop misusing the parliamentary privileges to make baseless allegations to further his own political agendas. He has abused the parliamentary privileges too often to make these accusations and I intend to take up this matter to the Speaker of the House of the Representatives."

Chaudhry said the Prime Minister's statement was a deliberate action taken to injure his reputation and political standing.

January 20, 2006

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