19 Feb 2003

Fiji treason trial hears plot to blow up banks during 2000 coup

7:35 am on 19 February 2003

The Suva high court has been told taht the ANZ and Westpac banks in the capital were to be blown up with bombs during the 2000 Fiji coup.

This has been revealed in the treason trial of coup accomplices, Josefa Nata and Timoci Silatolu, by a defence witness, Salesi Tuifagalele.

Tuifagalele is a former soldier of the army's Counter Revolutionary Warfare Unit which carried out the coup and the Suva mutiny six months later.

He has been given immunity from prosecution in return for information.

Tuifagalele told the court that the coup was planned for April the 28th, three weeks earlier than it took place, to coincide with a protest march organised by the SVT party which had lost the election the previous year.

The then prime minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, was to be kidnapped and taken to ameeting of the Great Council of Chiefs which was in progress that day.

Tuifagalele said he and some others went to fellow conspirator Iliesa Duvuloco's Tailevu farm to pick up weapons and explosives but no one was there and the coup did not take place.

Tuifagalele also revealed that two ethnic Indian companies, C J Patel and Punja's, financed the coup.

He said the frontman George Speight told them not to worry if the coup wasn't a success because he had already discussed the issue with the police commissioner, Colonel Isikia Savua, and the commissioner of prisons, Aisea Taoka.

He said Speight had promised that those who took part in the coup would get secure jobs for life and a pension.