Development: Leweni Consultant For Freesoul, Confirms Lawyer

Simione Valenitabua clarifies Mr Leveni's position to end speculation. He explains why the company complained to Police about two New Zealand journalists.
17 Sep 2019 13:07
Development: Leweni Consultant For Freesoul, Confirms Lawyer
Former high profile military officer, diplomat and civil servant Neumi Leweni.

Freesoul Real Estate Development Ltd lawyer Simione Valenitabua has ended months of speculation about the involvement of former high profile military officer, diplomat and civil servant Neumi Leweni with the company.

He has confirmed that Mr Leweni is a consultant for the company.

After weeks of trying to speak to Mr Leweni, the Fiji Sun was told that Mr Valenitabua would speak on his behalf.

Government officials and Cabinet ministers have been aware of his involvement with Freesoul but they did not know in what capacity.

When two journalists from New Zealand media company, Newsroom, were taken in for questioning, it was alleged that Mr Leweni was involved in lodging a complaint with the Police.

But Mr Valenitabua denied it saying the company called the Police.

The Newsroom crew was in the country investigating Freesoul activities on Malolo Island.

The journalists were released and Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama himself apologised to them.

Mr Valenitabua said the television crew just barged into the office and started recording.

“Just because they are an overseas media company, they think they can enter any premises,” he said.

“The news crew came inside our office, and were recording.

They did not take anyone’s permission to record or do anything. They just barged in.

“We called the Police and they came to do what they do. The TV crew were trespassing. They were breaking a law. Just because they are from overseas they cannot do whatever they like.

“We have laws in our country. This company is currently before the courts for allegedly breaching environmental laws, even we are answerable.”

Mr Leweni rose to prominence after the 2000 political upheaval in the military.

He became one of the two military spokespersons working closely with Voreqe Bainimarama when he was Commander of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF). The other officer was Lieutenant Colonel Orisi Rabukawaqa.

In August 2007, Mr Leweni resigned to take up a diplomatic post, as Defence attaché to China based in Shanghai. He rejoined the RFMF after his return.

He later served as Permanent Secretary for Information and Lands until joining the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2016 as chief protocol officer.

In May last year, Mr Leweni was suspended from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs pending an investigation following an alleged visa scam.

What is Freesoul?

Unlike the assumption that it is a foreign company, Freesoul Real Estate is a locally owned entity owned by Dickson Peng and Ben Mar.

Both men are Fijian citizens and the company is listed with the authorities including Investment Fiji as locally owned and operated.

The company had started work to build a $1 billion resort on Malolo Island. Mr Valenitabua said there was also a lot of misconception on what or who Freesoul Real Estate is.

“We have followed all the laws of this country, however there have been some environmental irregularities which we are trying to correct,” he said.

The current situation

The resort development work is at a standstill and the matter is before the civil court as well as the criminal court.

Edited by Nemani Delaibatiki

Feedback: shalveen.chand@fijisun.com.fj

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