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Tikoca Acquitted

Tikoca Acquitted
Ratu Isoa Tikoca. Photo: Arishma Devi-Narayan
June 17
11:00 2017

Suspended Opposition Member of Parliament, Ratu Isoa Tikoca, yesterday walked out a free man from Suva Magistrates Court, ready to contest in the 2018 Elections.

This was after Magistrate Makereta Mua acquitted him on one count of failure to declare liability and amount of liabilities to the Supervisor of Elections, upon being nominated by a political party, namely the Social Democratic Liberal Party as a candidate for the 2014 Elections.

“I am one that always stands for the truth and eventually truth has prevailed today, for all those who have accused me, taken me to court I have forgiven them all,” Tikoca said.

When asked if he was going to stand in the next election he said: “Of course! I think the people are rejoicing now. The truth is the guideline for anyone who wants to stand in politics.”

It was alleged that Tikoca had failed to declare the liability that he had incurred to the Fijian Government during his tenure as Fiji’s High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea.

In determining the matter Magistrate Mua said she relied on the agreed facts of both the defence and prosecution.

The prosecution had called three witnesses and tendered 10 exhibits.

The witnesses included Supervisor of Elections, Mohammed Saneem.

The defence had also called three witnesses including Ratu Inoke Kubuabola who was Tikoca’s predecessor and the former Fiji High Commissioner in Papua Guinea.

Facts that were not disputed in the case:

The accused was the Fiji High Commissioner in Papua New Guinea from April 2006 to February 2009.

His son was attending school at St Joseph’s Nudgee College in Australia in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

The Fijian Government through the Fiji High Commission in Port Moresby had transferred funds to St Joseph’s Nudgee College for Tikoca’s son for the three mentioned years.

In his declaration to the Supervisor of Elections the only liability disclosed by Tikoca during the five-year period was for a car debt of $500 owed to Palas Motors.

A sum of $23,739.34 had been deducted and withheld from Tikoca’s salary and his leave entitlements.

Based on the following the Magistrate determined the matter:

What was the child allowance in PNG?

How much did the Government pay for the education expenses of Tikoca’s son in Australia?

What was the nomination date and did the accused owe any money to the Government in the five years preceeding the nomination date? If so how much and why was it not declared?

Magistrate Mua said according to the State witness Public Service Act and the Public Service Regulations for Diplomats covered educational assistance for a Diplomat’s child and dependent child, entitling the officer to overseas educational allowance.

Therefore, his son was entitled to the allowance for the secondary level. His son was later moved to a school at Port Moresby. And Prosecution witness had stated that Tikoca had tendered all educational statements and receipts for his son for the concerned time frame.

Government payments made for educational expenses:

The Government through the Fiji High Commission in PNG had remitted a sum of $F70,749.58 to the accused for his son’s educational expenses.

To determine further whether Tikoca owed money to the Government, the Court deducted from the total transfer of $F70,749.58 and the child allowance payments made by him.

Child allowance:  $51,047.82

The total sum paid by the accused: $23,739.34

In conclusion the Court found that the debt has been paid off in February 2009 and there was an overpayment of $4037.58 to the Government by Tikoca.

The begining of the five-year period fell on August 18, 2009 therefore, as the date of nomination was on August 18, 2014, there were no other liabilities for which Tikoca was required to disclose to the Supervisor of Elections except his liability to Palas Motors.

Dissatisfied by the Prosecution’s standard of proof, Magistrate Mua acquitted Tikoca who was represented by lawyer Kitione Vuataki.

Edited by Naisa Koroi

Feedback:  arishma.narayan@fijisun.com.fj

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