17th December 04:11 PM
If they want to charge me for the offence then I have to withdraw - Rabuka
By Vijay Narayan and Semi Turaga
Tuesday 16/10/2018
SODELPA Leader Sitiveni Rabuka and Rabuka’s lawyer Queens Counsel Ian Lloyd outside the Suva Magistrates Court this morning

I look at it as an oversight.

If they want to charge me for the offence then I have to withdraw.

Those were the words of SODELPA Leader Sitiveni Rabuka in the FICAC caution interview that was played in the Suva Magistrates Court today.

Rabuka’s trial started before Magistrate Jioji Boseiwaqa today with FICAC lawyer Rashmi Aslam tendering 4 witness statements.

The FICAC statements were from businessman Vijay Raghwan, CEO of Fiji Revenue and Customs Service Visvanath Das, Supervisor of Elections Mohammed Saneem and Keshwan Mani.

Aslam also tendered other cheques and documents relating to Rabuka’s declaration.

The first witness to take the stand was FICAC investigator, Alivereti Wakanivesi.

He had conducted the caution interview with Rabuka.

Rabuka’s caution video interview was then played in open court.

Rabuka was read his rights.

He then confirmed that he has one account with BSP, one with Westpac and an overseas account with Wells Fargo.

Upon questioning, Rabuka also said that he has properties in Shalimar Street, land in Valavala Estate, two leases in the village and one farm lease in Wainigasau.

Rabuka was shown the declaration submitted to the Registrar of Political Parties in 2017 and confirmed that was the declaration he made.

FICAC investigator Alivereti Wakanivesi then asked Rabuka if he had an account with Kontiki Finance.

Rabuka said that he had an account there and it shows he has an investment of $400,000.

Wakanivesi then highlighted that $200,000 had gone out of the account.

Rabuka confirmed that this is the money that he loaned to Vijay Raghwan.

Rabuka said that Raghwan is part of their prayer group and is a close friend from the 1990s.

Rabuka told Wakanivesi that Raghwan was having problems with his cash flow and needed money for his operations.

Rabuka was then asked if he considered it as a loan.

Rabuka said yes and it was also an investment as interest from it is considered as an income.

The SODELPA Leader was then given a copy of the declaration that he may have made to find if he had declared the $200,000. Rabuka said that he could not find it and it must have been an oversight.

Rabuka said that he sees it as an unfortunate accident.

Wakanivesi then asked Rabuka if he was given $200,000 by Raghwan at the end of 2017. Rabuka said he had to borrow money from Raghwan as Rabuka was looking for money to pay off his tax liability so he asked his friends and Raghwan offered to help him by taking out a loan of $200,000 and giving it to Rabuka.

Rabuka confirmed that he had to pay Raghwan $2,000 a month.

Wakanivesi again asked Rabuka why he did not declare this. Rabuka said it was an oversight.

Rabuka added that it was one of those things where they were learning at the same time.

The second caution interview on the second day was also played in court where Rabuka was asked about his overseas investments.

Rabuka said that he prefers not to add any more to what he had said on the previous day.

Rabuka’s lawyer Queens Counsel Ian Lloyd did not have any questions for the FICAC Investigating Officer.

The second FICAC witness was Supervisor of Elections Mohammed Saneem.

He took the stand in the last hour. 

Meanwhile this morning, FICAC lawyer Rashmi Aslam also tendered a copy of the amended constitution of SODELPA.

Rabuka is charged by FICAC in relation to the declaration of his assets and liabilities as required under the Political Parties Registration, Conduct, Funding and Disclosures Act.

It is alleged that Rabuka made a false declaration of assets and liabilities to the Supervisor of Elections by failing to provide information namely, the tax liability with Fiji Revenue and Customs Service in the amount of $316,956, the investment and interest income with Raghwan Construction Limited in the amount of $200,000 and $16,000 respectively and the liability with Raghwan Construction in the amount of $120,000, contrary to the Political Parties Act.

The alleged incident occurred on the 29th of December last year.

In the second case, he was charged with allegedly breaching bail conditions in his case.

It is alleged that Rabuka spoke to a FICAC witness in the case.

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