20 Jan 2003

FBI report says bribery and corruption behind last Fiji coup

3:12 pm on 20 January 2003

A Fiji newspaper says a US report has identified bribery and corruption at the highest level as factors in George Speight's involvement in the May 2000 coup.

The Fiji Sun says the revelation is made in a report by the FBI obtained by the paper.

It says the FBI report has documented how funds were transferred to Speight's local and offshore accounts by mahogany bidders, Marshall Pettit of Timber Resources and Ron Parker of Fahnestock.

It says bribery led Speight to sell confidential Fiji government documents.

It also led to Speight's involvement with the SVT government to safeguard the financial interests of its key members who were illegally skimming funds from the state's pine and mahogany plantations.

The FBI report says "at a minimum, Pettit and Fahnestock were in violation of the American Corrupt Practices Act f 1977."

The Rabuka government appointed Speight as chairman of the Fiji Hardwood Corporation.

The FBI report says Speight was conducting negotiations with the two US companies in violation of the tender rules established by PriceWaterhouse Coopers.

He was sacked by the agriculture minister in the new Labour coalition government, Poseci Bune, and led the coup some months later.