NEWS

Scam Trial

Yesterday the trial of the alleged $3.1millon scam within the then Department of National Roads started at the High Court in Suva. The scam allegedly took place during the upgrade
05 May 2015 10:24
Scam Trial
Businessman Firoz Jan Mohammed (left) sticks out his tongue, outside the High Court in Suva yesterday. Aisea Liwaiono (middle) and Vijay Prasad (right)

Yesterday the trial of the alleged $3.1millon scam within the then Department of National Roads started at the High Court in Suva.

The scam allegedly took place during the upgrade of the Nausori Highlands Road.

Presiding judge Justice Paul Madigan said there was a possibility for the trial to go on for about three months.

Four alleged accomplices would appear as prosecution witnesses after they were given immunity by the State.

The four are part of a long list of witnesses that would be giving evidence over the alleged multi-million dollar scam. The Fiji Independent Commission against Corruption (FICAC) has charged a businessman and four civil servants with corruption-related charges. All deny these.

T.F Jan Bulldozing Company Limited director Firoz Jan Mohammed and then Department of National Roads employees Iliesa Turagacati and Navitalai Tamanitoakula are facing charges of bribery, obtaining a financial advantage and abuse of office.

It is alleged between February 27 and July 2012, Mohammed offered payments amounting to $110,100 to Turagacati, who was a public servant employed as an acting project accountant.

It is also alleged in that same period, Mohammed allegedly lodged false invoices and circumvented procedures to obtain an advantage of over $3 million.

Tamanitoakula, who was the senior accounts officer is also alleged to have abused the

authority of his office, did an arbitrary act in processing payments amounting to $2.468 million to TF Jan Bulldozing without following proper procedures.

The fourth and fifth-accused, Aisea Liwaiono and Vijay Prasad, whilst dishonestly caused a risk of loss by falsely verifying the statement of invoices dated December 31, 2010 amounting to $95, 773.52 for T.F Jan Bulldozing knowing there was a substantial risk of loss to FRA.

During the same time Liwaiono allegedly dishonestly caused a risk of loss by falsely verifying the statements of invoices dated December 31, 2010, April 4, 2012 and April 16, 2012 amounting to a total of $315, 417.60 and supporting documents for T.F Jan Bulldozing.

Mohammed was also charged for perverting the cause of justice by submitting false statutory declarations for investigation purposes.

FICAC lawyer Rashmi Aslam, during the opening of the case before five assessors, said taxpayers’ money was used to do upgrade works to ensure that people in the interiors had access to basic facilities.

He said Government was trying to improve the lives of many Fijians in the interior of Viti Levu.

He said they would be presenting witnesses and documents in court to prove that money was fraudulently obtained by the company T.F Jan Bulldozing.

The company was awarded the contract in 2009 for the improvement of interior roads at Nausori Highlands involving five roads to be upgraded.

The contract was to supply and deliver materials. However later the roads authority made three variations to the contract whereby some other roads were included for upgrade works and spreading and compaction work as well as dayworks.

Mr Aslam said FICAC would produce documents showing exaggeration of claims by the company, including double and inflated amounts and those approving payments received bribes.

Prosecution called its first witness Mukesh Chand, who was given immunity to give evidence, to take stand in the first day of the trial.

Mr Chand, a senior technical officer with the company, informed the court that he was operating from Bukuya site office in 2010 when the project started in January.

He was the project co-ordinator and his task was to look after the works carried out at the site.

Mr Chand agreed with Mr Aslam that he had seen the contract awarded to T.F Jan Bulldozing and he was also aware of the variations in the contract.

He was asked of the supply and delivery of materials to which Mr Chand told the court that for supply and delivery he would prepare delivery dockets which the drivers would take to the FRA office which the receiving officers would sign and return.

He told the court that the documents remained with him until he went to the office sometimes in the week as he would be at the camp site at Bukuya.

Mr Chand said the documents were taken back for claims purpose.

Mr Aslam asked him if Nadrugu Road was also part of their upgrade works. Mr Chand said it was not in the listing but the approval for upgrade works at Nadrugu Road came later.

He was asked when was he told of the approval of Nadrugu roadworks. Mr Chand said he was informed of it in 2010 by his boss, Mohammed.

Mr Chand was shown a picture marked as Nadrugu Road but when asked to identify it Mr Chand said it was the Koronubu Road in Ba and not Nadrugu Road.

Mr Chand was shown various delivery dockets as well as tally reports dated from December 16 to December 22, 2010. Mr Chand agreed signing on some delivery dockets despite not being the driver of the vehicle used to deliver the materials as the normal procedure was for the drivers to sign the delivery dockets.

Mr Aslam asked Mr Chand as to why he signed the delivery dockets when he was not the driver and neither delivered the materials.

Mr Chand said he was asked to sign by the accounts clerk Atish.

Mr Aslam showed him another document dated December 26, 2011, containing details of machinery. He asked Mr Chand on the December 26, 2011 whether he was working but he could not recall it.

He then asked Mr Chand how many machines were available for works at Nagatagata Road on December and he said there were two excavators, two trucks, one leading hand, two labourers and at times a grader.

However in the document the description was double. In the document there were four excavators, a grader full time, four trucks, two leading hand and four labourers listed in the document.

Mr Chand was asked whether this was true to which he said no and that he had seen the details and knew it was not correct.

He said he was asked to sign by his boss, Mohammed, but he did not question him despite knowing the details in the claims document were incorrect.

Mr Chand identified his boss, Mohammed, Liwaiono and Prasad in court.

In cross-examination Mohammed’s lawyer, Ian Lloyd QC, asked Mr Chand whether he was beneath Mr Mohammed in terms of levels of seniority to which Mr Chand agreed.

Mr Chand also agreed that he was involved in the tendered document which was approved but denied coming to Suva to talk to officials about the tender documents.

Mr Lloyd asked Mr Chand whether he kept time sheets to which he agreed and the employees would sign beside their name and that he mostly remained at the Bukuya camp site.

Cross-examination would resume this morning as trial continues.

Feedback: farisha.ahmed@fijisun.com.fj

 

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