7 Jun 2004

Fiji police chief rejects claims of interference in agriculture ministry scam investigation

3:33 pm on 7 June 2004

Fiji's police commissioner has dismissed media reports that high-level interference with investigations into a 13 million US dollar agriculture ministry scam has forced police seek overseas help.

The Fiji Times reports that police sources have confirmed the interference came from senior officers in the force.

Police commissioner Andrew Hughes says that while there has been tension among officers about how to handle the case, this did not prompt an approach to New Zealand police for help.

"There's a difference of opinions about how this needs to be progressed. The case officer has a particular view, and some of the other officers in the chain of command have a particular view. It's caused some friction, but it's not in any way inappropriate interference."

Mr Hughes says Fiji police approached New Zealand detectives for help in managing the case well before tensions began over the case in his force.

He says Fiji police need help to handle the large volume of documents that have been seized, but negotiations with New Zealand police have not yet been finalised.

Ministers of the current SDL coalition government, the post coup-Qarase interim administration as well as several leading businessment have been questioned so far.

The lawyer for the only public servant dismissed in the connection with the scam, Tevita Fa, has repeatedly claimed the money was used to buy votes for the ruling SDL party in the 2001 general elections.