19 Apr 2007

New Fiji anti-corruption commission given wide powers

6:52 am on 19 April 2007

Fiji's president has promulgated a decree setting up the country's first ever Independent Commission against Corruption with punitive penalties for those found guilty.

Fiji TV reports that the commission will have powers to investigate, search and seize documents and prosecute in its own name similar to the powers given to the police and the director of public prosecutions.

It will be able to investigate corruption and bribery allegations in any public entity, enter and search premises and arrest without a warrant.

The decree describes a wide range of offences designed to influence the conduct or decisions of civil servants as bribery and corruption.

The legislation will allow officers of the Fiji Independent Commission against Corruption to arrest without warrant people who are suspected of corruption or illegal conduct in relation to any election.

For the first time, it will also be an offence for public servants to have a lifestyle or own property which is disproportionate to their known income and they will be considered guilty unless they can prove their innocence.

The decree provides for fines of up to 60-thousand US dollars, jail terms of between 7 and 10 years and the confiscation of the property of those found guilty.