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By Cheerieann Wilson

SUVA, Fiji (FijiSUN, April 10) - A Fiji diplomat is under investigation in Canada for wrongfully obtaining money from former Fiji citizens with the promise of delivering permanent residence status.

Ashwant Dwivedi, the Fiji Consulate to Vancouver, denied his diplomatic title when questioned by a community newspaper that wrote stories about him. The newspaper, The Fiji Times (Canada), reported that Mr. Dwivedi took thousands of dollars from former Fiji citizens, a claim denied by him.

Newspaper president David Lingham said stories on Dwivedi were published after former Fiji citizens Kushwaha Kant Singh, Neel Kamal, Danny Ram went public with allegations against Dwivedi.

Mr. Lingham said Mr. Dwivedi, who was in Fiji in January recruiting skilled workers for jobs in Canada, had taken money from the Fijian community in Canada and giving them hopes of obtaining permanent status for their relatives in Fiji.

"Unfortunately this wasn’t the case and some of the people came to me to publish the stories in the paper before more innocent people get taken by this fellow. He was in Vatukoula a couple of months ago as well," Lingham said. "When asked why he did not return calls to these individuals, he said he had no comments to make." "Further investigation showed that Dwivedi made a cash purchase of a property in Langley on May 6, 2004, for FJ$303,685 [US$186,768]."

Dwivedi was part of the Canadian employment agency, Jobrox Solutions, which received wide publicity after promises that it could find work for thousands of miners that lost their jobs when the Emperor mines closed in December. "Jobrox gave me an interview in which he told me that he was charging between US$2,500 and US$3,000," Lingham said.

At the International Trade Dinner and Surrey Export Awards function held on April 4 this year, Dwivedi organized a Fiji trade booth but asked another to represent products and produce from Fiji. He also admitted that not everything showcased at the Fiji booth were from Fiji. Lingham said that when he tried to contact a Arvinder Bubber, who went to Vatukoula with Dwivedi to recruit Fiji citizens for temporary work visa, he refused to talk to the newspaper.

He said Dwivedi had denied to the newspaper he was the Fiji Consulate in Canada, claiming instead to be the business development manager for Fiji in Canada. Miner Tevita Bola said last night that most of the miners had applied for work in Canada. "Most of us applied when they came in January and promised to come back. We are still waiting. We only applied and did not have to pay any money," he said.

Government had issued a warning in January for people to be cautious about Jobrox Solutions, saying that it could be risky for people seeking employment opportunities overseas. "Whatever labor scheme between Fiji and Canada has to be approved by both Governments and our High Commissioner to Canada, Jesoni Vitusagavulu, is still in discussion with the relevant authorities there about this scheme," advisor to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs Isikeli Mataitoga earlier said.

Mr. Mataitoga cautioned people hoping to be recruited for jobs in Canada to wait for the determination of these discussions. "The discussions are still in preliminary stages. Nothing has been confirmed yet about a labor scheme between both countries. People can go privately and we can't stop them but we want a Government scheme in place to prevent any problems that could arise in future," he said.

Mataitoga said the Government was also doing this to prevent any future blame that could be laid on it should there be problems with people who manage to get employment and later face difficulties whilst being employed away from Fiji. "We don't want a repeat of the case we are facing in Papua New Guinea right now involving the five in Bougainville," he said. Mataitoga could not reached to comment on Dwivedi’s diplomatic status last night.

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