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False Information Claims ‘Baseless’

The former general manager finance of Post Fiji Limited yesterday said it was unjustified to say he provided false information just because it was not recorded in board minutes. Dhirendra
14 Nov 2014 08:17
False Information Claims ‘Baseless’

The former general manager finance of Post Fiji Limited yesterday said it was unjustified to say he provided false information just because it was not recorded in board minutes.

Dhirendra Pratap took the stand to give evidence in the case between three former Post Fiji executives and Fiji Independent Commission against Corruption.

The three are Mahendra Motibhai Patel (former chairman), Peni Mau (former managing director) and Pratap (former general manager finance).

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

Mau is charged with a count of extortion where he was alleged to have demanded money from the board.

Pratap faces an alternative count of providing false information to a public officer during the investigation.

The three have denied the charges.

Pratap said he remembered a letter from the then Finance Minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, to Patel accepting Mau’s early exit where he stated to ‘correctly pay Mau the balance of his contract’. Pratap said that in the letter the word ‘correctly’ was underlined.

Pratap said for any other consideration to be paid to Mau was left to board to decide after which Patel suggested he be paid gratuity of $24,000.

Pratap said one board director Vinod Gokul agreed and others nodded in agreement. Also Patel suggested to the board that Mau can take the company vehicle on book value which was also agreed upon. Pratap told the court that this was not typed in the board minutes but may have been recorded in the written minutes.

Pratap said he could not be discredited for the human error. He said that during the investigation the internal auditor did not ask any questions to Mau or Patel but only went to him as he was acting chief executive officer in March 2007 after Mau left.

Pratap said he was instructed to do all the calculations by the chairman during the board meeting of March 8, 2007. He said the final payout was done on March 8, 2007 and the official minute of that day’s meeting came three months after.

Pratap admitted during cross-examination by Patel’s lawyer Hemendra Nagin that he provided an unofficial letter to the internal auditor.

Pratap explained that he gave it because the internal auditor had requested for a supporting document to put in their report. He said that was when he wrote the letter on April 19, 2007. The letter was unofficial he said because there were no board minutes of March 8, 2007 available at the time.

Mr Nagin questioned Pratap whether anyone objected to the announcement of the final payout to Mau during the March 8, 2007 lunch. Pratap said no.

Mr Nagin asked Pratap to describe what happened in June 2007. Pratap said on June 21, 2007 he was asked by the new chairman, who was a lady to go on leave.  Mau’s lawyer Barbara Malimali asked Pratap whether the additional $15,000 paid to those over 50 years who took voluntary redundancy in 2006 was something like ex-gratia payment. Pratap agreed.

She asked him whether ex-gratia could also mean, ‘given as a favor or gratuitously’. Pratap agreed.

He agreed with Ms Malimali that the board had the right to approve gratuity.

FICAC lawyer Rashmi Aslam in his cross- examination questioned Pratap whether he was terminated or he resigned. Pratap said he was given a letter stating that he ‘proceed on leave.’

Mr Aslam asked him to explain what happened after his leave finished.

Pratap said after a month or so he received another letter from the new chairman informing him of the non-renewal of his contract.

Mr Aslam questioned Pratap whether he saw the board minute of March 8, 2007 or not before he wrote the letter on April 19, 2007. Pratap said he didn’t see it till middle of June before he left.

An email document was tendered in court which revealed that he was a recipient to a draft copy of the March 8, 2007, board minute.

Pratap said he did not agree that he was a recipient after looking at the document because there was no email address beside his name.

Pratap said there was possibility that the acting chief executive officers personal secretary’s email could have been manipulated.

Mr Aslam put it to Pratap that he did receive the draft copy on March 12, 2007 via email and that he was lying in court. Pratap said no.

FACTS

Accused and charges:
Mahendra Motibhai Patel, abuse of office;
Tevita Peni Mau, extortion;
Dhirendra Pratap, abuse of office
Presiding judge:
Justice Prabaharan
Kumararatnam
FICAC lawyer:
Rashmi Aslam
Patel’s lawyer:
Hemendra Nagin
Mau’s lawyer:
Barbara Malimali
Pratap:
Representing himself

Feedback: farisha.ahmed@fijisun.com.fj

 




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