NATION

Chief Justice To Rule On Rabuka Acquittal Two Days From Poll

  Chief Justice Anthony Gates will deliver judgment next month on an appeal against Social Demo­cratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) lead­er Sitiveni Rabuka’s acquittal in the Suva Magistrates Court last week.
31 Oct 2018 12:04
Chief Justice To Rule On Rabuka Acquittal Two Days From Poll
Sitiveni Rabuka outside the High Court in Suva on October 30, 2018. Photo: Fonua Talei

 

Chief Justice Anthony Gates will deliver judgment next month on an appeal against Social Demo­cratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) lead­er Sitiveni Rabuka’s acquittal in the Suva Magistrates Court last week.

The date set for judgment is to be handed down at 3pm on Monday, No­vember 12, two days away from the gen­eral election.

Rabuka yesterday appeared before Chief Justice Gates in the High Court in Suva.

He was earlier charged by the Fiji In­dependent Commission Against Cor­ruption (FICAC) with providing false declaration of Assets, Income and Li­abilities to the Supervisor of Elections, contrary to the Political Parties (Regis­tration, Conduct, Funding and Disclo­sures) Act 2013.

FICAC alleged that Rabuka failed to provide information pertaining to tax liability with the Fiji Revenue and Cus­toms Service, which amounted to over $316,000.

It was also alleged that Rabuka failed to declare investment and interest income from Raghwan Construction Limited in the amount of $200,000 and $16,000 respectively and also a liability in the amount of $120,000.

Rabuka was acquitted last Friday by Magistrate Jioji Boseiwaqa.

However, FICAC appealed against the acquittal by the Suva Magistrates Court on 15 grounds.

Chief Justice Gates advised both counsels that he was proposing to set a strict timetable to achieve the judg­ment on November 12.

He gave a timetable to which FICAC had to file their written submission on November 2 and respondent (defence) to respond with a written submission on November 6.

The hearing will be held on November 8 at 10am followed by the judgment on November 12 at 3pm.

FICAC senior counsel Rashmi Aslam said there was a provision in the Elec­toral Act compelling any court to take prompt action for an Electoral Act charge.

Mr Aslam said there was a reason to take prompt action because the Su­pervisor of Elections and Electoral Commission will have to make their decisions based on the judgment of the court. He said it was a matter of great public interest.

Chief Justice Gates said it seemed like a short matter and it should not trouble the counsels to make submissions.

Rabuka’s lawyer, Filimoni Vosarogo, informed the court they did not have any objections for the matter to be heard in reasonable time.

Mr Vosarogo advised the court that they were advised at 6.17pm on Monday that they have to appear in court yester­day. He then said that the exercise had taken place and a prompt decision had been taken by the Magistrates Court.

He said the appeal should take the normal course like all other appeals and the counsels be given 28 days to file submissions. He said that the service of the call was made outside normal hours.

Mr Vosarogo also informed the court that Rabuka had wished to retain his counsel from overseas.

Mr Vosarogo said in his view Mr Aslam’s suggestion had come and gone because the magistrates court had made its decision.

Chief Justice Gates told the counsels that cases relating to elections could proceed in this manner and the coun­sels did not have much options.

He said there was a record of proceed­ings available for counsels and they could go to the High Court Registry and collect that.

Mr Aslam then sought the court’s per­mission to file amended grounds of ap­peal.

They are introducing one ground on the issue of mistake of law and with­drawing another.

Meanwhile, Rabuka is also charged with one count of breaching his bail conditions.

It is alleged that on June 18th, Rabuka allegedly approached and interfered with a prosecution witnesses in rela­tion to his substantive matter and the matter will be called on November 23 for mention in the Suva Magistrates Court.

Edited by Epineri Vula

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