24 Oct 2008

Mahendra Chaudhry amends statement of claim in billion-dollar defamation lawsuit

2:35 pm on 24 October 2008

Fiji's Labour Party Leader Mahendra Chaudhry has reduced the list of defendants in his five billion-US-dollar lawsuit for defamation.

His lawyer Rajendra Chaudhry says Mr Chaudhry has amended his statement of claim, by cutting the number of defendants to about three people, including Fiji Times former publisher Evan Hannah and editor Netani Rika.

Mahendra Chaudhry claimed to have been defamed after the newspaper published documents relating to his tax affairs which suggested some irregularities.

At the time, Mr Chaudhry was the interim regime's finance minister and in charge of tax collection.

Rajendra Chaudhry says the amendments were made to speed up the proceedings as well as preventing any future strike out applications.

"The defendants, their solicitors sought to make application to try and strike out the entire proceedings, saying that some of these defendants were not actual persons, and therefore were not covered by the high court rules for such proceedings."

Rajendra Chaudhry says he won't specify now how much Mr Chaudhry wants from the defendants but says if he wins the case, the award for damages could be significant.

When the case was lodged in March, each defendant was asked to pay more than 600 million US dollars.