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No Case To Answer Ruling Today

No Case To Answer Ruling Today
November 12
12:30 2014

Justice Prabaharan Kumararatnam will today rule on whether there is a case to answer in the trial of three former Post Fiji Limited executives.

The lawyers for Mahendra Motibhai Patel and Tevita Peni Mau had submitted that there was no case to answer. The third accused Dhirendra Pratap, who represented himself, did not file an application.

Patel, former chairman, who is being tried in absentia, is charged with a count of abuse of office for the renewal of Mau’s contract.

Mau, former managing director, is charged with a count of extortion where he is alleged to have demanded money from the board.

Pratap, former general manager finance, faces a count of abuse of office for allegedly facilitating the payout to Mau.

The three accused have denied the charges.

Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption alleged that Patel on June 29, 2006, being employed in the public service as the chairman of board of directors of Post Fiji Limited, in abuse of that office, did an arbitrary act where he extended the former managing director, Mau’s contract for a further term of three years without proper board approval. FICAC claims this was prejudicial to the rights of Post Fiji Limited.

Patel’s lawyer Hemendra Nagin told Justice Kumararatnam he did not dispute that Patel was a public servant. But he did contest the three other elements of his client’s charge stating that there was no evidence by prosecution on the charges.

Mr Nagin said Patel had exercised his right and not abused his office by extending Mau’s contract. He said Mau’s contract stated that Mau had the right to renewal of his contract.

He said this was inbuilt right in Mau’s initial contract which was approved by the board of directors. He said there was no need for Patel to take the renewal matter back to the board.

He also said there was nothing sinister in the letter of June 29, 2006, accepting the renewal of Mau’s contract upon Mau’s request which was copied to Manager Human Resources, signed by Mau and another witness. He said it was appropriate for Patel to only draw up a letter of renewal.

Mr Nagin said the letter did not add anything extra. He said in fact it reduced Mau’s entitlement for one year since Mau’s contract was renewed in 2006 and not in 2007.

He said Patel was not charged for any serious offence for approving something for his own benefit and had not harmed Post Fiji Limited in any way. In fact, he said Patel acted in the best interest of the company by retaining the managing director for performance well done.

FICAC alleged that on February 26 and February 27, 2007, Mau being employed in the public office as a managing director at the time accepted a promise of a reward namely gratuity for his early exit which was beyond his proper pay and emoluments.

His lawyer, Barbara Malimali said Mau was not holding a public service office as a managing director but was an employee of the company since he was appointed by the board of the company and not by the Ministry of Finance.

Ms Malimali said letters exchanged between Mau and Patel did not have any promise of reward nor did it state any amount of payment.

She said in the letter from Patel to Mau on February 27, 2007, Patel accepted Mau’s resignation letter and said he would advice the management to do the calculation for what was owed to him.

Ms Malimali said there was no evidence by prosecution on what the gratuity payment to Mau was for and that no one at Post Fiji Limited had asked for the refund nor did they sue her client over it.

FICAC lawyer Rashmi Aslam replied that according to the Public Enterprise Act, the appointment of chief executive officer was the responsibility of the board by whatever name he was called. In this case, he said, the CEO was called managing director.

Feedback: farisha.ahmed@fijisun.com.fj

 

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