29 Sep 2006

Fiji High Court hears details of agriculture ministry scam

10:35 am on 29 September 2006

The High Court trial involving the 13-million US dollar Fiji agriculture ministry scam has been told that farming assistance equipment was bought at grossly inflated prices from a local hardware company.

The court heard that the ministry paid 755-US dollars to Suncourt Hardware for two tarpaulins which were worth only 35-dollars.

Many other similar items were listed including outboard motor engines, chainsaws, digging forks and spades.

Inspector Nasir Ali, who headed the police investigation into the scam, revealed that, in all, the agriculture ministry paid Suncourt Hardware over 5-million US dollars for equipment purchased at inflated prices.

The court was told that most of the documents relating to these purchases are missing.

The trial also revealed that among the beneficiaries from the purchases were the minister of state for provincial development, Ted Young, the paramount chief jailed for life for inciting the November 2000 mutiny, Ratu Inoke Takiveikata and coup convict, Peceli Rinakama.

On trial is the former head of the agriculture ministry, Peniasi Kunatuba, who is facing two counts of abuse of office.