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Yaqona Fraud Suspect Quizzed

Yaqona Fraud Suspect Quizzed
The truck that was used to transport yaqona parked at Siris Apartments near Nausori. Insert: Ratu Luke Navatoga says he’s owed more than $11,000. Photo: Ronald Kumar
April 26
12:03 2018

After two weeks, the suspect allegedly informed the men that they had to travel back to Suva as he had to withdraw cash from the bank.

The main suspect in an al­leged fraud case involving the purchase of yaqona is be­ing questioned at the Labasa Police Station.

Police confirmed that the arrest was made after a complaint was lodged at the Nabua Police Station on April 5, 2018.

One of the complainants, Ratu Luke Navatoga of Matawailevu Vil­lage, Wainimala in Naitasiri, was back at his farm yesterday.

He was disheartened about the turn of events because he had plans to buy a vehicle from the sale of his yaqona.

He has three children aged 19, 10 and six.

“I ventured into farming straight after leaving school. But this is the first time this has happened to me,” Ratu Luke said .

“My yaqona plants were more than five years old, so I was expect­ing a good sale to assist my family.

“It’s really sad.”

It is alleged that the suspect made a deal with farmers of Matawaile­vu to buy their yaqona at the follow­ing prices:

Waka at $120 a kilogram, Lewena at $60 a kilogram, Suckler for $20 a kilogram

Ratu Luke along with five other men from Matawailevu Village were advised to take the yaqona to Labasa because the suspect was waiting there with their money.

Ratu Luke said the ‘yaqona’ was weighed at the suspect’s home in Delailabasa and they were billeted at the Grand Eastern Hotel.

After the two weeks, the suspect allegedly informed the men that they had to travel back to Suva be­cause he had to withdraw cash from the bank.

The men, including the suspect, left Labasa on Thursday March 8, 2018.

Upon their arrival, the suspect took the men to Siris Apartment near Nausori.

Only three men were billeted at the apartment and the other three had to return to the village because of family commitments.

It is alleged that the suspect left the apartment without saying a word to the farmers and returned to Labasa the following day, March 9, 2018.

The three men remained at the apartment hopeful that the suspect would pay them for their yaqona sale.

It is alleged that the suspect owes Ratu Luke more than $11,000 for the sale of yaqona.

For more than 20 farmers, who lost out in the alleged deal, the total amount of their sale came to about $200,000.

On April 5, 2018, the men were told by the apartment manager that they had to move out because the suspect had not paid for their stay from March 26, 2018, to April 5, 2018.

Apartment manager Sumeet Ku­mar said he felt sorry for the farm­ers after hearing of their plight.

He took them to the Nabua Police Station and also helped them with some money to get them back to the village.

Mr Kumar had seized the 3-tonne truck that was used by the suspect to transport yaqona.

He said the truck was hired by the suspect. It is owned by a close rela­tive.

“Until the suspect pays us the $8000 he owes us, we have the right to seize the truck under the Hotel Management Act,” Mr Kumar said.

Edited by Percy Kean

Feedback: selita.bolanavanua@fijisun.com.fj

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