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FICAC: We’ve Evidence to Find Rabuka Guilty

FICAC: We’ve Evidence to Find Rabuka Guilty
SODELPA leader Sitiveni Rabuka outside Court in Suva on November 8, 2018. Photo: Ronald Kumar
November 09
13:21 2018

The Fiji Independent Commission against Corruption (FICAC) says they have sufficient evidence to find SODELPA leader, Sitiveni Rabuka, guilty for allegedly failing to declare his assets, liabilities and income contrary to the Political Parties (Registration, Conduct, Funding and Disclosures) Act 2013.

FICAC senior prosecutor Rashmi Aslam made the statement to Chief Justice Anthony Gates during an appeal hearing at the High Court in Suva yesterday.

Mr Aslam said they wanted a conviction over an order for a retrial.

He said the appeal judgment, which will be delivered by Chief Justice Gates on Monday, would shape the conduct of future politicians in Fiji – that they must be careful when it came to complying with the law.

Mr Aslam submitted that the large part of the evidence by FICAC during the trial was tendered with an agreement and only a small portion was cross-examined by the defence.

Rabuka was acquitted late last month after Resident Magistrate Jioji Boseiwaqa stated that the prosecution was unable to prove beyond reasonable doubt that SODELPA was a registered political party, and that Rabuka was an office holder in the party.

Mr Aslam said the credibility was not argued and the only argument advanced was a legal point on whether Mr Rabuka was an office holder or not.

He stated that it was not safe to rely on the Magistrate’s judgment who categorically stated that the Supervisor of Elections evidence was hearsay and therefore inadmissible.

He argued that this was an error of the fundamental principle of the rules of evidence, adding that the Supervisor of Elections’ was a competent witness and his evidence was not hearsay.

On the issue of whether SODELPA was a registered political party, Mr Aslam said there were blatant and factual errors committed by the Magistrate.

He said the Magistrate misstated the Supervisor of Elections’ evidence and the only issue was that the position of Party Leader was not specified in the definition of “office holder”.

Defence argument

Rabuka’s lawyer Filimoni Vosarogo requested the court to uphold the Magistrate’s acquittal. He said the onus was on FICAC to prove that SODELPA was a registered political party at the material time on December 29, 2017.

Mr Vosarogo said the Supervisor of Elections, Mohammed Saneem, did not give evidence as an ordinary citizen rather he gave evidence as the Registrar of Political Parties and the register is an official document, which he could have tendered to support the prosecution’s evidence.

However, Mr Vosarogo said this was not done adding that it was the register that told Mr Saneem that SODELPA was a political party and as a result his oral evidence was hearsay.

He said the register should be gazetted and nationally notified by the media adding that there was suspicion that no such register existed.

Mr Vosarogo submitted that the title Party Leader was not specifically described under Section 2 of the registration act rather it specified other positions within the party like President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer and registered officer.

He said the onus was on FICAC to prove that Mr Rabuka was an office holder considering that Section 2 does not define that he was a leader.

Mr Vosarogo stated that the SODELPA Constitution was a generic document, which does not mention Mr Rabuka’s name.

He added that Mr Rabuka received assistance when he prepared his Fiji Revenue and Customs Service (FRCS) return, but did not get assistance when he prepared his declaration to the Supervisor of Elections.

Both documents were submitted on the same day on December 29, 2017.

He said there was no evidence that anyone helped Rabuka and that nothing reads of intentional devious adding that at the end of the day Mr Rabuka gained nothing.

Chief Justice Gates is expected to deliver his judgment at 3pm on Monday.

Edited by Caroline Ratucadra

Feedback: fonua.talei@fijisun.com.fj

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