12 Oct 2011

Air Pacific comments on its Fiji cyber crime claim

5:14 pm on 12 October 2011

Fiji's national airline, Air Pacific, has outlined the nature of sensitive documents at the heart of a court case involving a former employee and union official Shalend Scott.

Mr Scott has been charged with unlawful access to documents and is being held in prison in Suva.

The case is due to be heard on October the 21st.

Reporter Sally Round has been covering the story

Interviewer: Sally, how did the case come before the courts?

Air Pacific referred the case to police after doing its own investigations and suspending Mr Scott.

The cyber crime unit of the Fiji police has since been investigating and Mr Scott was charged under the Crimes Decree last Friday.

He's being held in prison and is appealing against his remand conditions. That appeal is being heard in the Lautoka High Court.

Interviewer: but you have only just heard from Air Pacific on the matter?

Despite the principal matter being now before the courts, Air Pacific has only just released a company statement detailing which documents have gone missing.

After detailing the documents, the company statement did say, out of respect for the employee involved and the judicial process, it would not comment any further on the matter.

But the statement went on to make several comments replying to criticisms the company has faced.

Interviewer: what are those criticisms?

Earlier documents were leaked showing Air Pacific was involved in drafting the controversial Essential National Industries Decree. Invoices are now in the public domain from a New York law firm addressed to Air Pacific for work done on the decree.

The decree is roundly seen as anti union and has drawn criticism from international bodies like the International Labour Organisation for breaching fundamental workers' rights, although the interim regime disputes this.

Mr Scott's case has brought fierce criticism from unions in Australia, which feared he was the victim of a witchhunt.

He is a unionist himself, an official with the Fiji Airline Pilots Association and a national of Australia.

Despite several attempts to get Air Pacific's side of the story, as soon as the leaked documents came to light, nothing has been forthcoming from the company so it is surprising it's saw fit to release information at this stage.

The vociferous reaction from unions particularly in Australia have probably caught the airline on the backfoot and it's now seeking somewhat belatedly to rectify its image.

Interviewer: what has the interim regime been saying about the matter?

The interim regime has refused to comment about its role in procuring the decree for which Air Pacific was allegedly billed at an hourly rate of just under 1,000 US dollars.

Air Pacific's minority stake holder, Qantas, earlier said it wants no involvement in the matter, adding that Air Pacific runs a separate operation.

Air Pacific has not denied assisting the interim government with the Decree and says such help with legislation is common practice in Fiji and other countries.