SENTENCING Chaudhry Not in Poll

TALEBULA KATE SUVA Former Prime Minister and Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry will not be able to stand in the 2014 General Elections. This was after Justice Paul Madigan,
03 May 2014 10:03

Former Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry with family members and supporters. Photo: Ronald Kumar

Former Prime Minister and Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry will not be able to stand in the 2014 General Elections.
This was after Justice Paul Madigan, in sentencing Chaudhry at the High Court in Suva yesterday afternoon, ordered that his conviction remain on record.
Section 56 (2) (g) of the 2013 Constitution clearly states: “A person may be a candidate for election to Parliament only if the person-
(g) has not, at any time during the eight years immediately before being nominated, been convicted of any offence under any law for which the maximum penalty is a term of imprisonment of 12 months or more.”
Justice Madigan in sentencing Chaudhry ordered him to pay a fine of F$2million by June 30 this year.
Failure to pay the fine will result in Chaudhry serving 15 months in prison of which the non-parole period was 12 months.
Justice Madigan also ordered Chaudhry to comply with the terms of the Exchange Control Act and offer all his foreign funds held abroad to an authorised dealer and this must be available by July 31, 2014.
This means that he needs to bring home the funds of A$1.5m held in Australia.
Failing to do so will make him liable to prosecution for continuing to breach the act.
The prohibition for Chaudhry to access the foreign funds has also been lifted by Justice Madigan.
Chaudhry has also been barred from travelling out of Fiji until he has paid his fine or served his prison term.
Justice Madigan said once Chaudhry has paid his fine or sentence is served he will then be free of the restrictions to access his funds from overseas and bring it into Fiji.
Chaudhry was found guilty and convicted after trial of three counts of breach of the Exchange Control Act namely:
q Failure to surrender foreign currency
q Dealing with foreign currency otherwise than with an authorized dealer without permission
q Failure to collect debts
In mitigation the High Court heard a request that Chaudhry’s conviction should not be recorded. Because the charges were said to be insignificant he should be discharged of each of the counts, the mitigation said.
The court was also told of Chaudhry’s career in politics and the torture and oppression he had suffered in the coups of 1987 and 2000.  The court was also reminded of the rationale behind the gift from the people of India which was to resettle him and his family in Australia.
Contempt of court
In his sentencing Justice Madigan revealed that Father Kevin Barr’s speech, as one of the character witnesses for Chaudhry, was in contempt of court. Justice Madigan said Father Barr had launched into what can only be described as a political anti-government speech. He said Father Barr had cast disparaging remarks against the nature of the proceedings.
“In light of this contempt of court I give no weight whatsoever to Fr Barr’s testimonial and it also serves to cancel the worth of the rest of the character evidence,” Justice Madigan said.
Meanwhile the former Prime Minister said he was happy it’s all over as the case had been going on for the last four years. “It’s a great relief to my family and myself, it will now let me concentrate on some important work that I have to do for the country,” Chaudhry said.
Chaudhry said he cannot say whether it will be the end of his political career. “My lawyers will study the judgment and they will advise me and will then take the advice and act accordingly.”

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