29 Oct 2002

Fiji army commander denies that he approved liquor smuggling by troops in Lebanon

11:08 am on 29 October 2002

Fiji's army commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, has denied any knowledge of liquor smuggling operations by Fiji troops in Lebanon until two weeks ago.

Radio Fiji says Commodore Baianimara issued the denial in a statement after its earlier story that the army commander had authorised the smuggling.

He says he did not know of the illegal activity until a contingent of troops returned from Lebanon two weeks ago.

Commodore Baianimara says a board of inquiry was appointed immediately and is now in Lebanon to gather evidence.

Radio Fiji says some soldiers had claimed that Commodore Bainimarama had approved the smuggling so they could pay off their debts to Lebanese businessmen.

But the army commander has denied ever discussing the issue with the soldiers.

He says he would never condone any illegal activities by Fiji soldiers serving overseas.