13 Oct 2006

Fiji's 2001 agriculture minister denies any knowledge of scam

6:56 am on 13 October 2006

The agriculture minister in Fiji's post coup interim administration has denied any knowledge of the 13-million US dollar scam which took place in his ministry

Radio Legend reports that Mohammed Apisai Tora has told the Suva High Court that he only came to know of the farming assistance scheme under which the money was used when he was briefed about it by the head of the ministry, Peniasi Kunatuba.

Kunatuba was sacked and is now facing two counts of abuse of office for his role in the scam.

Mr Tora said the scheme was already in existence when he became interim agriculture minister and no documents were given to him for his approval.

But he admitted that the scheme was received with great appreciation and a lot of people including cabinet ministers and leaders of indigenous communities wrote to the agriculture ministry conveying their thanks.

Mr Tora said the interim administration viewed the scheme as necessary for the development of indigenous Fijians and Rotumans and for national stability in the post coup period.

He admitted he encouraged people to make full used of the scheme.