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FORMER FIJI LEADER’S TRIAL MOVED TO NEXT YEAR Qarase charged by Bainimarama regime with improprieties

SUVA, Fiji (FijiSUN, Feb. 8, 2011) – The much-awaited trial of Fiji’s former Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase and former Native Land Trust Board General manager Kalivati Bakani has been moved to next year.

This was ruled by High Court Judge Justice Priyantha Fernando at the High Court in Suva yesterday.

The duo both pleaded not guilty to seven counts of fraudulent conversions outlined to them by the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC).

They also had fresh pleas taken yesterday after the case was transferred from Justice Daniel Goundar to Justice Fernando.

The trial which was set for one month will take place on March 5, 2012 while the pre trial conference will take place on October 27, this year.

Justice Fernando also ordered that FICAC was to file fresh disclosures on the consolidated charges for the next three months.

Justice Goundar allowed for the consolidation of charges of the two late last year after FICAC filed a submission that charges against the duo were related to the same funds.

The Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption in its submission also stated that the scheme to apply the said funds for a fraudulent use was proposed by Qarase in his capacity as the Minister for Fijian Affairs at the time.

The two were alleged to have conspired to transfer ownership and control of extinct mataqali funds of 2002 without proper approvals of the Native Land Trust Board and the Fijian Affairs Board.

[PIR editor’s note: The transfer of extinct mataqali funds which amounts to US$1.1 million was authorized to various institutions when the funds should have been paid to the Fijian Affairs Board to be used for the benefit of native Fijians.]

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