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Conviction remains and $2M fine for Chaudhry - May 03

Former Prime Minister and Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry has been fined 2 million Fijian dollars by High Court Judge Justice Paul Madigan.

Chaudhry has to pay the fine by the 30th of June this year.

Justice Madigan has ruled that failure to pay the fine will result in Chaudhry serving 15 months in prison.

He has to serve a minimum term of 12 months in jail if the fine is not paid.

Chaudhry’s conviction has also been recorded which means that he is ineligible to contest the 2014 general election.

Mahendra Chaudhry has to comply with the Exchange Control Act by the 31st of July this year which means that he needs to repatriate the 1.5 million Australian dollars held in Australia.

Failure to do so will make him liable to prosecution for continuing breach of the Exchange Control Act.

The prohibition for Chaudhry to access the 1.5 million Australian dollars has also been lifted.

Chaudhry cannot travel outside Fiji until he complies with the court’s order.

While passing his sentence and highlighting the mitigation in the case, Justice Madigan highlighted that character witness, Father Kevin Barr launched into what can only be described as a political anti-government speech in court.

The judge said Father Barr cast disparaging remarks on the nature of the proceedings against Chaudhry.

Justice Madigan said in the light of this contempt of court, he gives no weight whatsoever to Father Barr’s testimonial.

Judge Madigan said Chaudhry’s counsel must be seen as a party to this contempt of court as Chaudhry’s lawyer, Matthew Hutchings knew this was coming because he had a typed copy of Father Barr’s testimonial.

Justice Madigan also highlighted that the issue of these funds held in Australia by Chaudhry was raised in parliament on the 2nd of December 2005 by the then Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase.

The judge said the public record of proceedings which were before him reveals that Chaudhry vehemently denied the existence of the money.

Justice Madigan said such deceit in hiding the existence of the money for so long from the authorities can only be an aggravating factor in this sentence.

He said Chaudhry has not shown a shred of remorse for his breaches and appears to have been in a state of denial since 2008.

Story by: Vijay Narayan


This is not a court of politics says Justice Madigan - May 03

This is not a court of politics.

That was the message from High Court Judge Justice Paul Madigan after the third character witness in Mahendra Chaudhry’s mitigation, Father Kevin Barr started making comments about the trial which were not part of his character reference.

Justice Madigan interrupted Father Barr and told him and Chaudhry’s lawyer Matthew Hutchings that the comments were outrageous and this is not a court of politics.

Father Kevin Barr then continued with the character reference saying that Chaudhry’s record as Prime Minister and Finance Minister was outstanding.

Story by: Vijay Narayan & Praneeta Prakash


Chaudhry awaits sentencing today - May 02

As former Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry awaits his sentencing later today, he and his lawyer have asked the court to dismiss his charges without recording a conviction as Chaudhry wants to contest the elections.

Chaudhry’s lawyer Matthew Hutchings told High Court Judge Justice Paul Madigan in his sentencing submission that Chaudhry is the leader of the Fiji Labour Party and elections are to be held in which the party will field candidates.

Hutchings said that his client intends to stand for the elections and a conviction will mean that Chaudhry will not be able to stand as a candidate.

Hutchings also presented a local doctor’s medical report stating that Chaudhry is suffering from diabetes, heart diseases and cardiac conditions.

The High Court Judge then asked Hutchings on Chaudhry’s means to pay a fine and whether his ability to pay a fine will be a problem.

Justice Madigan also asked Hutchings to ask his client about the value of his house and other assets.

Chaudhry through his lawyer informed the court that the value of his house is not more than $300,000 and the only other property is his vehicle.

Chaudhry has been found guilty of three counts of breach of the Exchange Control Act.

The penalty for such charges range from two years imprisonment to fines amounting to three times of the value of the original amount in the offence.

The first count against Chaudhry is in relation to failure to surrender foreign currency, where Mahendra Chaudhry between November 2000 and July 2010 retained the sum of 1.5 million Australian dollars for his own benefit without the consent of the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji.

The second count is in relation to dealing in foreign currency without permission.

The third count relates to Chaudhry having the right to receive a sum of $1.5 million Australian dollars from the financial institutions in Australia and New Zealand, caused the delay of payment of the sum, in whole or in part, to himself by authorizing the continual investment of the sum together with interest acquired back into financial institutions without the permission of the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji.

Chaudhry will be sentenced at 2.30pm today.

Story by: Vijay Narayan & Praneeta Prakash


This is not a court of politics says Justice Madigan - May 01

This is not a court of politics.

That was the message from High Court Judge Justice Paul Madigan after the third character witness in Mahendra Chaudhry’s mitigation Father Kevin Barr started making comments about the trial which were not part of his character reference.

Justice Madigan interrupted Father Barr and told him and Chaudhry’s lawyer Matthew Hutchings that the comments were outrageous and this is not a court of politics.

Father Kevin Barr then continued with the character reference saying that Chaudhry’s record as Prime Minister and Finance Minister was outstanding.

Story by: Vijay Narayan & Praneeta Prakash


3 character witnesses take stand for Chaudhry - May 01

Three character witnesses have so far taken the stand for former Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry as mitigation continues before High Court Judge Justice Paul Madigan.

The first character witness Ratu Epeli Ganilau said that he came to know Chaudhry better when Chaudhry was the Minister for Finance while Ganilau was the Defence Minister in the Voreqe Bainimarama led cabinet.

Ratu Epeli Ganilau said that he enjoyed working with Chaudhry as he was a very interesting person.

He said that he respected Chaudhry as a former Prime Minister.

Ratu Epeli Ganilau also said in court that Chaudhry was an honest and hardworking government minister.

He said the former Prime Minister was a very knowledgeable person especially in finance, sugar and a whole range of topics.

Former Education Minister Taufa Vakatale then took the stand saying that she has known Chaudhry since the early 1970s.

Vakatale said Chaudhry became a public figure when he joined the Fiji Public Service Association where he spoke for the rights of civil servants.

Vakatale said in 2008, she was appointed to investigate allegations against Chaudhry.

She said they found that he was not guilty of breach of the Exchange Control Act.

Vakatale said this was stated in the report.

She said Chaudhry had agreed to provide all the documents and the inquiry report was issued after discussions with Reserve Bank of Fiji and Fiji Revenue Customs Authority.

Father Kevin Barr was the third character witness for Chaudhry in court

Father Barr said that Chaudhry is an inspiring person and outstanding leader.

He said Chaudhry is concerned about the workers of the country and is a fighter for social justice.

Chaudhry’s lawyer Matthew Hutchings has asked for a non-custodial sentence.

He said after the 2000 coup, the Indian Counselor provided Chaudhry with half a million dollars to settle in Australia.

Hutchings said Chaudhry came back to Fiji to serve the people.

He said Chaudhry was subjected to three coups and he was also abused and tortured.

Hutchings said based on this, there might be resistance to return to Fiji with the funds.

He also said that Chaudhry’s family suffered greatly when he was imprisoned in 1987 and 2000.

Hutchings said there were questions on whether he would survive at the hands of the perpetrators.

Chaudhry will be sentenced tomorrow.

Justice Madigan had earlier highlighted that the penalty for such charges range from two years imprisonment to fines amounting to three times of the value of the original amount in the offence.

The first count against Chaudhry is in relation to failure to surrender foreign currency, where Mahendra Chaudhry between November 2000 and July 2010 retained the sum of 1.5 million Australian dollars for his own benefit without the consent of the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji.

The second count is in relation to dealing in foreign currency without permission.

The third count relates to Chaudhry having the right to receive a sum of $1.5 million Australian dollars from the financial institutions in Australia and New Zealand, caused the delay of payment of the sum, in whole or in part, to himself by authorizing the continual investment of the sum together with interest acquired back into financial institutions without the permission of the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji.

Story by: Vijay Narayan and Praneeta Prakash


Chaudhry’s lawyer to file a mitigation submission today - May 01

The lawyer of Former Prime Minister and Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry will file a mitigation submission in the Suva High Court today.

Chaudhry will be sentenced tomorrow.

He has been found guilty of all three counts of breaching the Exchange Control Act by High Court Judge Justice Paul Madigan.

Story by: Vijay Narayan


Chaudhry to be sentenced this Friday - April 30

Former Prime Minister and Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry will be sentenced this Friday after the mitigation submissions by the lawyers tomorrow.

High Court Judge Justice Paul Madigan has confirmed this after rejecting Chaudhry’s latest application for the charge against him to be quashed.

Justice Madigan said he sees no merit in the application.

Defence lawyer Anand Singh had said in the application that the information filed against Chaudhry for breach of Sections 3, 4 and 26 of the Exchange Control Act require in law the approval of the Minister of Finance.

Singh said contrary to the provisions of the three sections of the Exchange Control Act, the particulars of the information set out in Chaudhry’s charge alleged absence of the approval of the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji, instead of the absence of the approval of the Minister.

Singh said the charge is defective and should be quashed.

Mahendra Chaudhry has been found guilty of all three counts of breaching the Exchange Control Act by High Court Judge Justice Paul Madigan.

The judge earlier highlighted that the penalty for such charges ranges from two years imprisonment to fines amounting to three times of the value of the original amount in the offence.

In Chaudhry’s case, it would be 4.5 million Australian dollars.

Story by: Vijay Narayan and Tokasa Rainima


Application made to quash charges against Chaudhry - April 29

Just days before the mitigation and sentencing for former Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry, his lawyer has made an application in the High Court yesterday to quash the charges against Chaudhry.

Defence lawyer Anand Singh said in his submission to Justice Paul Madigan that the amended information made by the Director of the Public Prosecutions is wrong.

He said that the information filed against Chaudhry for breach of Sections 3, 4 and 26 of the Exchange Control Act require in law the approval of the Minister of Finance.

Singh said contrary to the provisions of the three sections of the Exchange Control Act, the particulars of the information set out alleged absence of the approval of the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji, instead of the absence of the approval of the Minister.

Singh said the charge is defective and should be quashed.

He has also called for a fresh trial.

When Judge Madigan asked Singh why this matter was not raised during the trial, Singh replied that the matter was discovered after the trial.

Judge Paul Madigan will rule tomorrow.

Mahendra Chaudhry has been found guilty of all three counts of breaching the Exchange Control Act by Justice Madigan.

Justice Madigan said there is no question that Chaudhry was a resident of Fiji at all relevant times and there is no question that Chaudhry was in control of approximately 1.5 million Australian dollars in Australia and New Zealand.

Judge Madigan told Chaudhry that having been aware at least as early as October 2009 of the probability of breach of provisions of the Exchange Control Act, he did nothing to repatriate the funds to an authorised dealer in Fiji.

The judge earlier highlighted that the penalty for such charges ranges from two years imprisonment to fines amounting to three times of the value of the original amount in the offence.

In Chaudhry’s case, it would be 4.5 million Australian dollars.

Chaudhry’s mitigation and sentencing will take place this Thursday.

Story by: Vijay Narayan and Tokasa Rainima


Mahendra Chaudhry found guilty, sentencing on 1st May - 04th April

Former Prime Minister and Fiji Labour Party leader, Mahendra Chaudhry has been found guilty of all three counts of breaching the Exchange Control Act by High Court Judge, Justice Paul Madigan.

Justice Madigan concurred with the four assessors who found him guilty earlier this afternoon and convicted him of all the charges.

The judge told Chaudhry that the case against him represented by the three charges is overwhelming.

He said that there has been no defence evidence that would explain or contradict the facts.

Justice Madigan said there is no question that Chaudhry was a resident of Fiji at all relevant times and there is no question that Chaudhry was in control of approximately 1.5 million Australian dollars in Australia and New Zealand.

Judge Madigan told Chaudhry that having been aware at least as early as October 2009 of the probability of breach of provisions of the Exchange Control Act, he did nothing to repatriate the funds to an authorised dealer in Fiji.

The judge said Chaudhry invested funds and deposited funds thereby giving loans to financial institutions and despite notice, he delayed repatriating the funds to Fiji as required by the Act.

Mitigation and sentencing will be done on the 1st of May.

Justice Madigan has ordered Chaudhry not to access the 1.5 million Australian dollars directly or indirectly between now and the sentencing.

He is also forbidden to travel outside Fiji and his passport will be held by the court.

Chaudhry's bail has been extended until his sentencing. Prosecution did not object to it.

Chaudhry's lawyer, Matthew Hutchings will now lead the case in mitigation as QC Peter Bodor will not be available for it.

Hutchings said his client, Chaudhry is 72 years old and has cardiac problems.

He said they won't be able to produce a medical report now and asked for the matter to be called on the 1st or 2nd of May so that he can prepare for mitigation.

Justice Madigan referred to the Sentencing and Penalties Decree, and said that sentencing must be done immediately after conviction.

Hutchings informed the court that between 2000 and 2010, Chaudhry has travelled 12 times overseas and during these times he has received medical treatment.

Chaudhry's lawyer said Chaudhry is not a flight risk and he has always followed the bail conditions.

He also said that there have been no attempts made to access the 1.5 million Australian dollars.

Justice Madigan adjourned the case to the 1st of May in the interest of justice and to give Chaudhry time to prepare for mitigation.

The judge earlier highlighted that the penalty for such charges ranges from two years imprisonment to fines amounting to three times of the value of the original amount in the offence.

In Chaudhry's case, it would be 4.5 million Australian dollars.

The first count against Chaudhry is in relation to failure to surrender foreign currency, where Mahendra Chaudhry between November 2000 and July 2010 retained the sum of 1.5 million Australian dollars for his own benefit without the consent of the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji.

The second count is in relation to dealing in foreign currency without permission.

The third count relates to Chaudhry having the right to receive a sum of $1.5 million Australian dollars from the financial institutions in Australia and New Zealand, caused the delay of payment of the sum, in whole or in part, to himself by authorizing the continual investment of the sum together with interest acquired back into financial institutions without the permission of the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji.

Story by: Vijay Narayan and Praneeta Prakash


Assessors find Mahendra Chaudhry guilty - 04th April

Mahendra Chaudhry is guilty.

That is the unanimous opinion of the four assessors in the former Prime Minister and Fiji Labour Party leader, Mahendra Chaudhry's high court trial.

The assessors returned after about two hours and delivered their opinion before High Court Judge, Justice Paul Madigan.

Justice Madigan will deliver his verdict at 3pm today.

While summing up the case earlier today, Justice Madigan told the assessors that they are the judges of facts.

He also highlighted that most of the facts in this case have been agreed.

Justice Madigan also said that the assessors should establish whether Chaudhry is a Fiji resident, whether he was not an authorised dealer of foreign currency, whether the minister's permission was sought to keep the 1.5 million Australian dollars, whether he did not bring the money to Fiji and whether he had the approvals from the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji.

The judge said the Reserve Bank of Fiji also had no legal obligation to tell Chaudhry about the Exchange Control Act.

He said it is still a law of the country no matter what people may think.

Justice Madigan also told the assessors that it is not for them to make a judgement on whether the law is useful or not.

In the closing submissions made yesterday, Chaudhry's lawyer said that Chaudhry admits that he has had 1.5 million Australian dollars in overseas accounts over the last 14 years however he stressed that he has not breached the Exchange Control Act.

Queens Counsel Peter Bodor said Chaudhry had revealed the details of the money kept in the overseas accounts in 2006.

He said three years after the declaration, the Reserve Bank of Fiji solicitors started making allegations against Chaudhry.

Bodor said the money was collected by the people of India to assist Chaudhry after the political upheaval in 2000.

He stressed that the money was a particular beneficial gift to assist Chaudhry and his family to establish residence in Australia.

Bodor said the money never passed Fiji and it is not a secret that the 1.5 million Australian dollars has remained in bank accounts in Australia.

In his closing submission, prosecution Queens Counsel Clive Grossman said that Chaudhry has 1.5 million Australian dollars in overseas bank accounts and kept it for his own use and benefit.

Grossman said that he did not have to be told what to do.

Grossman made reference to the evidence given by the Reserve Bank of Fiji Board Secretary, Subrina Hanif who had informed the court that one needs to write to RBF and seek approval to open overseas bank accounts.

Chaudhry is facing three counts of breaching the Exchange Control Act.

Justice Madigan also highlighted that the penalty for such charges ranges from two years imprisonment to fines amounting to three times of the value of the original amount in the offence.

In Chaudhry's case, it would be 4.5 million Australian dollars.

The first count against Chaudhry is in relation to failure to surrender foreign currency, where it is alleged that Mahendra Chaudhry between November 2000 and July 2010 retained the sum of 1.5 million Australian dollars for his own benefit without the consent of the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji.

The second count is in relation to dealing in foreign currency without permission.

The third count relates to Chaudhry having the right to receive a sum of $1.5 million Australian dollars from the financial institutions in Australia and New Zealand, caused the delay of payment of the sum, in whole or in part, to himself by authorizing the continual investment of the sum together with interest acquired back into financial institutions without the permission of the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji.

Justice Madigan will deliver his verdict at 3pm today.

Story by: Vijay Narayan and Praneeta Prakash


Assessors now deliberate on Chaudhry’s case - 04th April

The four assessors have retired behind closed doors to deliberate on their opinion after the summing up in former Prime Minister, Mahendra Chaudhry's case.

High Court Judge, Justice Paul Madigan directed the assessors on the matters of law and the facts of the case.

He stressed that the burden of proof lies on the prosecution and the accused person is presumed innocent until he is found guilty.

Justice Madigan said based on the charges the assessors should assess whether Chaudhry is a resident of Fiji, whether he had 1.5 million Australian dollars in overseas accounts and whether he followed laws relating to the exchange control act.

Chaudhry is facing three counts of breaching the Exchange Control Act.

The maximum sentence for the charge is two years imprisonment.

The first count against Chaudhry is in relation to failure to surrender foreign currency, where it is alleged that Mahendra Chaudhry between November 2000 and July 2010 retained the sum of 1.5 million Australian dollars for his own benefit without the consent of the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji.

The second count is in relation to dealing in foreign currency without permission.

The third count relates to Chaudhry having the right to receive a sum of $1.5 million Australian dollars from the financial institutions in Australia and New Zealand, caused the delay of payment of the sum, in whole or in part, to himself by authorizing the continual investment of the sum together with interest acquired back into financial institutions without the permission of the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji.

Stay with us as the assessors return with their opinion.

Story by: Vijay Narayan


Judge Madigan to sum up Chaudhry case this morning - 04th April

High Court Judge, Justice Paul Madigan will sum up former Prime Minister, Mahendra Chaudhry’s case this morning before the four assessors retire behind closed doors to deliberate on their opinion.

Justice Madigan will also reveal later today on whether he will deliver his verdict later today after the assessors’ opinions are known.

Stay with us for that.

As the closing submissions were made yesterday, Chaudhry’s lawyer said that Chaudhry admits that he has had 1.5 million Australian dollars in overseas accounts over the last 14 years however he stresses that he has not breached the Exchange Control Act.

Queens Counsel Peter Bodor said Chaudhry had revealed the details of the money kept in the overseas accounts in 2006.

He said three years after the declaration, the Reserve Bank of Fiji solicitors started making allegations against Chaudhry.

Bodor questions how Chaudhry became the Minister for Finance in 2007 if he had breached the Exchange Control Act.

Chaudhry’s lawyer says this is not a case of corruption or improper payments.

Bodor said the money was collected by the people of India to assist Chaudhry after the political upheaval in 2000.

He stresses that the money was a particular beneficial gift to assist Chaudhry and his family to establish residence in Australia.

Bodor said the money never passed Fiji and it is not a secret that the 1.5 million Australian dollars has remained in bank accounts in Australia.

In his closing submission, prosecution Queens Counsel Clive Grossman said that Chaudhry has 1.5 million Australian dollars in overseas bank accounts and kept it for his own use and benefit.

Grossman said Chaudhry was a former Finance Minister and he kept the money for his own benefit without consent.

Grossman said that he did not have to be told what to do.

He also said that Chaudhry continued to commit an offence.

Grossman said that the prosecution has proven every element of the charge by way of agreed facts and their witness, Subrina Hanif.

Grossman made reference to the evidence given by the Reserve Bank of Fiji Board Secretary, Subrina Hanif who had informed the court that one needs to write to RBF and seek approval to open overseas bank accounts.

Chaudhry is facing three counts of breaching the Exchange Control Act.

The maximum sentence for the charge is ten years imprisonment.

The first count against Chaudhry is in relation to failure to surrender foreign currency, where it is alleged that Mahendra Chaudhry between November 2000 and July 2010 retained the sum of 
1.5 million Australian dollars for his own benefit without the consent of the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji.

The second count is in relation to dealing in foreign currency without permission.

The third count relates to Chaudhry having the right to receive a sum of $1.5 million Australian dollars from the financial institutions in Australia and New Zealand, caused the delay of payment of the sum, in whole or in part, to himself by authorizing the continual investment of the sum together with interest acquired back into financial institutions without the permission of the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji.

Story by: Vijay Narayan & Praneeta Prakash


Chaudhry’s lawyer says he did not commit any offence - 03rd April

Former Prime Minister and Fiji Labour Party leader, Mahendra Chaudhry admits that he has had 1.5 million Australian dollars in overseas accounts over the last 14 years however he stressed that he has not breached the Exchange Control Act.

This is part of the closing submission of Chaudhry's lawyer, Queens Counsel Peter Bodor as the two counsels wrapped up their case before High Court Judge, Justice Paul Madigan.

Bodor said Chaudhry had revealed the details of the money kept in the overseas accounts in 2006.

He said three years after the declaration, the Reserve Bank of Fiji solicitors started making allegations against Chaudhry.

Bodor questioned how Chaudhry became the Minister for Finance in 2007 if he had breached the Exchange Control Act.

Chaudhry's lawyer said this is not a case of corruption or improper payments.

Bodor said the money was collected by the people of India to assist Chaudhry after the political upheaval in 2000.

He stressed that the money was a particular beneficial gift to assist Chaudhry and his family to establish residence in Australia.

Bodor said the money never passed Fiji and it is not a secret that the 1.5 million Australian dollars has remained in bank accounts in Australia.

Earlier today, Chaudhry chose to remain silent in his court trial.

Justice Madigan asked Chaudhry to stand up after the closing submission by prosecution Queens Counsel Clive Grossman.

The judge then asked Chaudhry on whether he intends to give evidence, remain silent or call any witnesses.

Chaudhry's lawyer then informed the judge that Chaudhry has decided to remain silent and will not call any witnesses.

Justice Madigan said this is an unusual case where the defence is not calling any witnesses.

While closing the prosecution case earlier today, QC Grossman said that Chaudhry has 1.5 million Australian dollars in overseas bank accounts and kept it for his own use and benefit.

Grossman said Chaudhry was a former Finance Minister and he kept the money for his own benefit without consent.

Grossman said that he did not have to be told what to do.

He also said that Chaudhry continued to commit an offence.

Grossman said that the prosecution has proven every element of the charge by way of agreed facts and their witness, Subrina Hanif.

Grossman made reference to the evidence given by the Reserve Bank of Fiji Board Secretary, Subrina Hanif who had informed the court that one needs to write to RBF and seek approval to open overseas bank accounts.

Chaudhry is facing three counts of breaching the Exchange Control Act.

The first count against Chaudhry is in relation to failure to surrender foreign currency, where it is alleged that Mahendra Chaudhry between November 2000 and July 2010 retained the sum of 1.5 million Australian dollars for his own benefit without the consent of the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji.

The second count is in relation to dealing in foreign currency without permission.

The third count relates to Chaudhry having the right to receive a sum of $1.5 million Australian dollars from the financial institutions in Australia and New Zealand, caused the delay of payment of the sum, in whole or in part, to himself by authorizing the continual investment of the sum together with interest acquired back into financial institutions without the permission of the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji.

The different accounts that were used to deposit the money or to re-invest the funds was presented in the evidence in court. This included Chaudhry's accounts in Commonwealth Bank Australia, Commonwealth Managed Investments Limited Australia, ANZ New Zealand, the Perpetual Investment Management Limited Australia and Colonial First State Investments Limited Australia.

Justice Madigan will sum up the case tomorrow morning.

The assessors will then retire behind closed doors to deliberate on their opinion.

Story by: Vijay Narayan and Praneeta Prakash


Chaudhry opts to stay silent - 03rd April

Former Prime Minister and Fiji Labour Party leader, Mahendra Chaudhry has chosen to remain silent in his court trial.

This was revealed before High Court Judge, Justice Paul Madigan in the last hour.

Justice Madigan asked Chaudhry to stand up after the closing submission by prosecution Queens Counsel Clive Grossman.

The judge then asked Chaudhry on whether he intends to give evidence, remain silent or call any witnesses.

Chaudhry's lawyer, QC Peter Bodor then informed the judge that Chaudhry has decided to remain silent and will not call any witnesses.

While addressing the four assessors in the trial, Justice Madigan said this is an unusual case where the defence is not calling any witnesses.

The presiding judge informed the court that the closing address will be done this afternoon and he will sum up the case tomorrow morning.

The assessors will then retire behind closed doors.

While closing the prosecution case earlier today, QC Grossman said that Chaudhry has 1.5 million Australian dollars in overseas bank accounts and kept it for his own use and benefit.

The prosecution said that it has proven every element of the charge by way of agreed facts and their witness, Subrina Hanif.

Grossman said the offence has been committed and they have proved it.

This morning, Justice Madigan ruled that Chaudhry has a case to answer.

Chaudhry's lawyer, Queens Counsel Peter Bodor had made a no case to answer application yesterday after the prosecution called in the Reserve Bank of Fiji Board Secretary Subrina Hanif as the only witness.

Hanif said in court that Mahendra Chaudhry had not written to the Reserve Bank of Fiji to seek an approval to open a bank account overseas.

Prosecution QC Clive Grossman asked Hanif to explain what a Fiji resident should do if they want to open an overseas bank account. 

Hanif said that they need to write to RBF and seek an approval.

Chaudhry is facing three counts of breaching the Exchange Control Act.

The first count against Chaudhry is in relation to failure to surrender foreign currency, where it is alleged that Mahendra Chaudhry between November 2000 and July 2010 retained the sum of 1.5 million Australian dollars for his own benefit without the consent of the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji.

The second count is in relation to dealing in foreign currency without permission.

The third count relates to Chaudhry having the right to receive a sum of $1.5 million Australian dollars from the financial institutions in Australia and New Zealand, caused the delay of payment of the sum, in whole or in part, to himself by authorizing the continual investment of the sum together with interest acquired back into financial institutions without the permission of the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji.

The different accounts that were used to deposit the money or to re-invest the funds were presented in the evidence in court.

This included Chaudhry's accounts in Commonwealth Bank Australia, Commonwealth Managed Investments Limited Australia, ANZ New Zealand, the Perpetual Investment Management Limited Australia and Colonial First State Investments Limited Australia.

The court heard that Chaudhry received sums totaling over $1.5 million Australian dollars in the form of donations from people in India to assist Chaudhry and his family to leave Fiji following the political upheaval here in May 2000 and to establish residence in Australia.

Story by: Vijay Narayan and Praneeta Prakash


Chaudhry has a case to answer - 03rd April

Former Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry's trial will go ahead as High Court Judge Justice Paul Madigan has ruled that there is a case to answer.

Chaudhry's lawyer, Queens Counsel Peter Bodor had made a no case to answer application yesterday after the prosecution called in the Reserve Bank of Fiji Board Secretary Subrina Hanif as the only witness.

Hanif said in court that Mahendra Chaudhry had not written to the Reserve Bank of Fiji to seek an approval to open a bank account overseas.

Prosecution QC Clive Grossman asked Hanif to explain what a Fiji resident should do if they want to open an overseas bank account.

Hanif said that they need to write to RBF and seek an approval.

Chaudhry is facing three counts of breaching the Exchange Control Act and his lawyer will present their case today.

Fijivillage has been told that Chaudhry's counsel will not call any witnesses.

Chaudhry pleaded not guilty to all the charges yesterday.

The first count against Chaudhry is in relation to failure to surrender foreign currency, where it is alleged that Mahendra Chaudhry between November 2000 and July 2010 retained the sum of 1.5 million Australian dollars for his own benefit without the consent of the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji.

The second count is in relation to dealing in foreign currency without permission.

The third count relates to Chaudhry having the right to receive a sum of $1.5 million Australian dollars from the financial institutions in Australia and New Zealand, caused the delay of payment of the sum, in whole or in part, to himself by authorizing the continual investment of the sum together with interest acquired back into financial institutions without the permission of the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji.

Prosecution Queens Counsel, Clive Grossman told the assessors that charges against Chaudhry come under the Exchange Control Act.

He said that in summary, Chaudhry had money in Australia and he was bound by law to bring it back but he lent it to various banks there.

The different accounts that were used to deposit the money or to re-invest the funds was presented in the evidence in court.

This included Chaudhry's accounts in Commonwealth Bank Australia, Commonwealth Managed Investments Limited Australia, ANZ New Zealand, the Perpetual Investment Management Limited Australia and Colonial First State Investments Limited Australia.

The court heard that Chaudhry received sums totaling over $1.5 million Australian dollars in the form of donations from people in India to assist Chaudhry and his family to leave Fiji following the political upheaval here in May 2000 and to establish residence in Australia.

Story by: Vijay Narayan and Praneeta Prakash


Mahendra Chaudhry trial now underway - 02nd April

The trial of former Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry is now underway after the opening submission presented in the High Court by prosecution Queens Counsel Clive Grossman.

Grossman told the assessors that charges against Chaudhry come under the Exchange Control Act.

He said that in summary, Chaudhry had money in Australia and he was bound by law to bring it back but he lent it to various banks there.

Chaudhry was asked by Presiding Judge Justice Paul Madigan to stand up this morning and the three charges were read to him.

Chaudhry pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

Meanwhile, the first prosecution witness took the stand in the last hour.

Reserve Bank of Fiji board secretary Subrina Hanif said in court that Mahendra Chaudhry had not written to the Reserve Bank of Fiji to seek an approval to open a bank account overseas.

QC Grossman asked Hanif to explain what a Fiji resident should do if they want to open an overseas bank account.

Hanif said that they need to write to RBF and seek an approval.

Hanif said in this case, Chaudhry did not write to them for approval.

Chaudhry is charged with three counts of breach of the Exchange Control Act.

The first count against Chaudhry is in relation to failure to surrender foreign currency, where it is alleged that Mahendra Chaudhry between November 2000 and July 2010 retained the sum of AUS$1.5 million for his own benefit without the consent of the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji.

The second count is in relation to dealing in foreign currency without permission.

The third count relates to Chaudhry having the right to receive a sum of AUS$1.5 million from the financial institutions in Australia and New Zealand, caused the delay of payment of the sum, in whole or in part, to himself by authorizing the continual investment of the sum together with interest acquired back into financial institutions without the permission of the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji.

Chaudhry's lawyer Peter Bodor has just made a written submission for no case to answer against his client.

The case will continue before Justice Madigan later this afternoon.

Story by: Vijay Narayan & Praneeta Prakash