30 Sep 2004

Fiji police investigate fraud claims against cabinet minister

10:30 am on 30 September 2004

Fiji police have begun investigating the country's only ethnic Indian cabinet minister for allegedly colluding with a travel agent to defraud the state.

The auditor general's report says the minister for multi-ethnic affairs, George Shiu Raj, travelled overseas in economy class when his ministry paid business class fares, collected excessive daily allowances and also took his official driver to India.

The director of the police Criminal Investigation Department, Ravi Narayan, has told Radio Legend that they are gathering evidence before deciding whether charges can be laid against the minister.

Mr Shiu Raj, who has returned all the extra money to his ministry, says he has not abused a cent and is innocent.

He says he will meet the prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, immediately on his return from New York later today to explain his actions.

The chief executive of the Labour ministry, who also travelled economy class when the travel agent was paid business class fares, has already been suspended.

The opposition leader, Mick Beddoes, says there should be no double standards and Mr Shiu Raj should be dealt with in the same manner.