23 May 2007

Former Lord Mayor of Suva, Fiji, charged

5:10 am on 23 May 2007

A leading Fiji businessman and former Lord Mayor of Suva, Dhansukh Lal Bhika, has been arrested and charged in connection with the 13-million US dollar agriculture ministry scam.

Also charged is another director of Suncourt hardware, Mohan Bhika, and two others who did not appear in the Suva magistrate's court because they were overseas.

Dhansukh Bhika and Mohan Bhika have been charged with conspiracy to commit a felony and defraud the state of almost 2-point-2 million US dollars.

The offences are alleged to have been committed between September 2000 and August 2001 when the then Laisenia Qarase-led interim administration operated a Farming Assistance Scheme for indigenous Fijians.

The charges relates to the bulk purchase of agricultural equipment for distribution which was later described as vote buying.

Both accused have pleaded not guilty.

They have been released on bail of 6-thousand US dollars each, ordered to surrender their passports and report to a local police station twice a week.

The director of the police economic crimes unit, Senior Superintendent Ravi Narayan, says they will continue to investigate companies and individuals implicated in the agriculture ministry scam and bring them before the courts.