27 Sep 2006

Suva Court blocks overseas trip by lands minister

10:36 am on 27 September 2006

The Suva High Court has denied Fiji's lands minister, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, permission to travel overseas.

Radio Legend reports that this is because Ratu Naiqama is one of the many current and former cabinet ministers who have been summoned to give evidence in the High Court trial involving the 13-million US dollar agriculture ministry scam.

Justice Nazhat Shameem has allowed Ratu Naiqama to travel overseas on an official visit between September the 30th and October the 4th.

But Justice Shameem turned down a separate application by Ratu Naiqama to leave Fiji between the 10th and 24th of October after defence lawyer Tevita Fa said he would need the minister for questioning in the trial at that time.

Among the witnesses also subpoenaed are the prime minister, Laisenia Qarase; the Speaker of parliament, Pita Nacuva; the finance minister, Ratu Jone Kubuabola; the education minister, Ro Teimumu Kepa; and other ministers and senior public servants.

On trial is the former head of the agriculture ministry, Peniasi Kunatuba, who is charged with two counts of abuse of office for allegedly misusing 5-million US dollars of taxpayers' money in the so-called farming assistance scheme in 2001..