30 May 2007

Former senior public servant in Fiji arrested over agriculture scam

9:17 am on 30 May 2007

A former senior public servant in Fiji's ministry of agriculture has been arrested and brought before the Suva magistrate's court for his part in the 13-million US dollar agriculture ministry scam.

Suliasi Sorovakatini is accused of conspiring with others to steal 2-point-2 million US dollars in public funds from the state between September 2000 and August 2001 when he was principal accountant in the ministry.

Sorovakatini also faces a charge of official corruption in which he is alleged to have received 39-thousand US dollars in cash and other payments in 2001 for authorizing payments of 670-thousand US dollars to Repina Wholesalers.

Sorovakatini has been facing a separate charge in the Suva High Court of corruptly receiving 69,000 US dollars.

He has been granted bail on payment of 6-thousand US dollars and ordered not to leave the country.

Two weeks ago a former Suva Lord Mayor and Suncourt Hardware director, Dhansukh Lal Bhika, and three others were charged with conspiracy to commit a felony and defraud the state of over 2-million US dollars in the agriculture ministry scam.

Fiji police have confirmed that they will also investigate the deposed prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, in relation to scam to determine whether tax dollars were used to buy farming implements for people in return for votes in the 2001 general elections.