Former Prime Minister of Fiji faces sentencing this week
A former Prime Minister of Fiji, Mahendra Chaudhry, is expected to be sentenced this week for breaching the country's Exchange Control Act.
A former Prime Minister of Fiji, Mahendra Chaudhry, is expected to be sentenced on Thursday for breaching the country's Exchange Control Act.
The Fiji High Court this month found Chaudhry had invested $1.5 million Australian dollars outside Fiji without informing the Reserve Bank, while he was the Minister of Finance.
He risks being jailed up to two years or a fine of several million dollars.
Amelia Langford asked Fiji's Law Society president, Dorsami Naidu, about the Act and how it could affect the everyday citizen.
DORSAMI NAIDU: I would say very few know about the Act, very few.
AMELIA LANGFORD: Putting money into an overseas bank account, under this Act, is that considered a serious offence?
DN: I think it may have been considered a misdemeanor in the past but since recently it's been looked at very seriously. Fiji now enjoys huge remittances from overseas, it is probably our second biggest income earner in recent times. Huge amounts of money coming in from overseas especially Australia, New Zealand, England, America. Just working [in] security offices, a lot of positions, a lot of them still keep their Fiji citizenship and their families are still resident and living in Fiji and they send money over from there but those people wouldn't be or well, shouldn't be caught under the Act because sure they would have money in the country they are working in like you have people in the British Army or Iraq, Iran, in the security forces, or in Israel, Middle East, even as security officers, rugby players, in Australia or New Zealand. They would all be there for a temporary purpose and they would be having bank accounts there, sending money to Fiji, most of their earnings would be coming back to Fiji. I don't how how you'd be, you know - would we really want to catch them.
AL: Yes, how difficult would it be to police this kind of thing?
DN: Very difficult. Even with the double taxation agreement it would be extremely difficult because there are a lot of laws that you have to - breaching of confidentiality - it would be quite expensive and cumbersome to police.
AL: And do you think a lot of Fijian citizens do have money in overseas bank accounts and they are not even aware they are breaching the Act?
DN: Oh yes definitely. We've got to look at the situation that's prevailed in Fiji since '87. This has happened since '87. Our currency has plummeted because of these coups, when people play games and we have coups in this country, it affects our economy. People lose confidence in the leaders of the country, and in the banking system and they see the value of the dollar, their hard-earned money, going down so they try to get it out to a safer place and can you really blame them? Where it can earn better interest, where it retains its value, but unfortunately people don't realise that when it is left there for several years while they are living in Fiji, they may be, they may be, committing an offence.
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