Defence Calls Witness A Liar

The second day of the 3.1 million scam trial opened with a bit of drama as the defence lawyer called the first witness, Mukesh Chand, a ‘liar.’ In the High
06 May 2015 11:14
Defence Calls  Witness A Liar
FICAC witness Mukesh Chand outside Court yesterday.

The second day of the 3.1 million scam trial opened with a bit of drama as the defence lawyer called the first witness, Mukesh Chand, a ‘liar.’

In the High Court in Suva yesterday, Queens Counsel Ian Lloyd queried Mr Chand’s recollection of time sheets and taxi invoice claim documents. He suggested Mr Chand was lying in court to protect his immunity, granted by the state.

The trial involves a businessman and four former civil servants and cross- examination of prosecution witnesses continued before Judge Justice Paul Madigan.

Businessman Firoz Jan Mohammed and former civil servants Iliesa Turagacati and Navitalai Tamanitoakula were charged with bribery, obtaining a financial advantage and abuse of office, while the other two Aisea Liwaiono have been charged with two counts of causing loss and Vijay Prasad charged with one count of causing loss.

Mohammed is also charged with a count of perverting the cause of justice by submitting false documents for investigation purpose.

It was alleged between February 27 and July 2012, Mohammed, a director of T.F Jan Bulldozing Company Ltd, offered payments amounting to $110,100 to Turagacati, who was a public servant employed as an acting project accountant in the then Department of National Roads. (The Department of National Roads is being referred to as Fiji Roads Authority in the High Court).

It was 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 of FRA, was 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 Liwaiono and Prasad whilst being employed with FRA allegedly dishonestly caused a risk of loss to FRA by falsely verifying the statement of invoice dated December 31, 2010 amounting to $95,773.52 and supporting documents for T.F.Jan Bulldozing Company Limited allegedly knowing that there was a substantial risk of loss to FRA.

During the same time, it was alleged that Liwaiono dishonestly caused a risk of loss to FRA by falsely verifying the Statements of invoice respectively dated December 31, 2010, April 4, 2012 and April 16, 2012 amounting to a total sum of $315, 417.60 and supporting documents of T.F.Jan Bulldozing Company Limited.

The five were charged by the Fiji Independent Commission against Corruption (FICAC) and they all denied the charges.

Ian Lloyd QC, the lawyer of Mohammed queried the first witness, Mr Chand on various documents including timesheets and tax invoice claims dockets.

Mr Chand agreed with Mr Lloyd that after the end of the week, he took time sheets back to the T.F Jan depot in Ba and handed it to the pay clerk and it was the pay clerk’s task to prepare timesheet summary.

However, he denied seeing the timesheet summaries at the end of the week, and that the pay clerk would print it and keep it for record purposes.

Mr Lloyd QC asked him whether he used to work during the weekends. Mr Chand confirmed working at times to complete the paperwork.

He was asked whether it was his responsibility to look after the plants and equipments up at Bukuya site and also order fuels. This was confirmed by Mr Chand.

He also confirmed that the company used to hire equipment from other companies when there was a need and that it was his responsibility to transfer the registration ownership of vehicles as well.

Mr Lloyd QC suggested to Mr Chand that there were occasions when he forgot to transfer ownership. Mr Chand said he used to work on instructions, but Mr Lloyd put to him that it was part of his responsibility to transfer and re-register the vehicles.

He was shown a document which contained a roller registration DR 411 but admitted that he made a mistake as the company had a roller registration DP411.

He agreed that the gravel approved for Nadrugu road was to be placed for 2.1kilometres and that the work done was up to 1.5 kilometres.

He was shown the dayworks claim sheets and questioned on the number of excavators used during the construction of the road. Mr Lloyd put it to Mr Chand that there were three excavator drivers for the day works, but Mr Chand said the three were working at the crusher site and not excavator drivers.

Mr Lloyd suggested that Mr Chand claimed himself as the leading hand during the day works, but this was denied by Mr Chand. Mr Chand said he was at the crusher site.

In that claim sheet, there were two labourers but Mr Chand said one of them was a watchman stationed at 40 kilometres away from Bukuya.

More claim sheets were shown to him and he maintained his stance.

Mr Chand was asked were there any graders at the site, to which he replied, that there was a grader at the crushing site as they needed it for spreading of materials.

A time sheet was shown to Mr Chand and he was asked whether works at Navala road was completed to which he replied that he was not aware of it because he was only in charge of Bukuya site but Mr Lloyd put to him that the work was completed because he travelled on that road and that he has seen the works done. Mr Chand maintained he was not aware of whether work was completed or not at the Navala road.

Mr Lloyd asked him about a Muktar Ali and Mr Chand said he came to the work sites at times to check the progress. Mr Lloyd put to him that Mr Ali was his deputy and that if Mr Ali was produced in court and said that work was done at Navala road, would that surprise him to which Mr Chand replied in the negative.

Mr Chand agreed that the Bukuya Quarry was a small area but did not agree with Mr Lloyd’s suggestion that there was no need to keep so many pieces of equipment at a small quarry.

Mr Lloyd asked the witness whether he was trying to lie in court because of the fear of losing his immunity.

“You are a cunning man and you are lying because you fear that you will lose your immunity and be prosecuted.”

Mr Chand denied lying about anything in court and insisted that his testimony and evidence was accurate.

Justice Paul Madigan ordered FICAC to inform the court when they produced a witness who had been given immunity and clarified to the witnesses the meaning of immunity. Cross-examination would resume this morning.



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