FIJI AGRICULTURE MINISTER GUILTY OF CORRUPTION

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Sentencing expected today

By Keresi Nauwakarawa SUVA, Fiji (FijiSUN, March 15, 2011) - Suncourt Hardware director Dhansukh Lal Bhikha and former Ministry of Agriculture principal accounts officer Suliasi Sorovakatini were remanded in custody yesterday after five assessors found them guilty of three counts of official corruption. The pair appeared yesterday before Justice Sitabarampillai Thurairaja in the High Court in Suva.

Justice Thurairaja passed his verdict after the five assessors unanimously found Bhikha and Sorovakatini guilty of three counts of official corruption each. The assessors found the two not guilty for one count of official corruption each and acquitted them for that count.

Justice Thurairaja adjourned the matter to 10 a.m. today for submissions from the counsels on sentencing and mitigation before the judge gives his sentencing. The charges relate to Dhansukh Lal Bhikha and others corruptly giving benefits to Suliasi Sorovakatini, on account of acts done by him in the discharge of his duties of his office in 2000 and 2001 when the Farming Assistance Scheme was in place.

Sorovakatini's charges relate to him corruptly receiving benefits in the discharge of the duties of his office. The assessors deliberated yesterday on their verdict for almost four hours

The defence lawyer objected to them being placed in remand but Justice Thurairaja stated they were now convicts and would have to comply.

The sentencing is at 10 a.m. today in the High Court in Suva.

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