14 Nov 2005

Fiji people smuggling case changed over legal problem

2:36 pm on 14 November 2005

Prosecutors in Fiji have been forced to drop people smuggling charges against two foreign nationals arrested at Nadi International Airport just over a week ago because of a legal bungle.

The Fiji Sun reports that the Immigration Act passed by parliament in 2003 has yet to be gazzetted, which means it has no legal standing.

The assistant director of public prosecutions, Kevueli Tunidau, has expressed concern over what he has described as the toothless legislation saying there was no point in having a law that could not be enforced.

As a result the prosecution has had to amend the charges against an Australian national of Sri Lankan origin, Reginald Constantine, and Indian citizen, Sanjay Patel, who were arrested when Kumar tried to board a flight to Canada.

Patel has now been charged with possessing false documents and uttering false documents and Constantine with official corruption for trying to bribe a Customs officer.

The offence of people smuggling under which they were originally charged would have carried a penalty of 20 years in prison or a 450,000 US dollar fine or a combination of both.