Crime & Court

Bobby Maharaj Trial: Businessman, First Witness Takes Stand

The former chief executive officer of the then Fiji Commerce Commission appeared at the Magistrates Court in Suva yesterday. Fiji Commerce Commission is now know as Fijian Competition and Consumer
17 Dec 2019 09:46
Bobby Maharaj Trial: Businessman, First Witness Takes Stand
Bobby Maharaj outside the Magistrates Court in Suva on December 16, 2019. Photo: Ashna Kumar

The former chief executive officer of the then Fiji Commerce Commission appeared at the Magistrates Court in Suva yesterday.

Fiji Commerce Commission is now know as Fijian Competition and Consumer Commission (FCCC).

Bobby Maharaj is charged with one count of abuse of office by the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC).

He appeared before Magistrate Jioji Boseiwaqa for his one-week hearing. Maharaj dennies the charge and is represented by lawyers Devanesh Sharma and Sharoneel Deo. Prosecution is represented by FICAC counsels Rashmi Aslam and Sera Fatafehi.

The Charge:

It is alleged that between March 17, 2012 and December 31, 2012, whilst being employed in the public service as the chief executive officer for the Fiji Commerce Commission, did an arbitrary act in abuse of the authority of his office, by directing one Sanjay Menon, an employee of the Fiji Commerce Commission, without conducting an inspection, to fill in false information in the Fiji Commerce Commission Inspection No. 10A to indicate that an inspection was conducted at Rajah’s Food Court and Bakery in Korovou on December 19, 2011, and a verbal warning was issued against the said Rajah’s Food Court and Bakery for breaches under the Commerce Commission Decree, which was an act prejudicial to the rights of the Fiji Commerce Commission and Rajah’s Food Court and Bakery.

Hearing day 1:

The first prosecution witness, businessman of Korovou, Rajendra Prasad, took the stand yesterday.

He told the court that he was the owner of Rajah’s Food Court and Bakery, of which the license was under his defacto partner, Sarojni Chand’s name.

He told the court that the inspection at his business was carried out by two personnel from the Commission in the supervision of Maharaj.

Mr Prasad also told the court that he was handed a spot fine of $1000 by one named, Sanjay Menon, for no price displays and prices not market individually for seven items.

He told the court that he had pleaded to Maharaj not to give a fine, however, he claimed that no mercy was shown.

He also claimed that in April 2012, he wrote a letter to Mahendra Reddy, who was the chairman of the Commission, sharing his grievance on the way he was treated and given a spot fine by Maharaj.

He further claimed that he followed up on his concerns raised to Mr Reddy, however, no actions was taken.

Mr Prasad also told the court that in April, 2012, he had paid the fine of $1000 and was issued a receipt by the Commission.

He told the court that Rajah’s Food Court and Bakery had no prior convictions and claimed that he should have been handed a warning letter instead of a fine.

He further claimed that before the alleged incident took place, there was no warnings given to him by the Commission.

Cross examination:

During the cross examination, defence lawyer Mr Sharma asked Mr Prasad if he had any authorisation from his defacto partner to give evidence in the case on behalf of her, as she was the licence holder of the business, to which Mr Prasad told the court that he did not.

Mr Prasad also confirmed to the court that the name mentioned on the Commission’s documents were of Sarojni Chand and not his.

He also confirmed to the court that there were six pages of offences against the business and confirmed to the court that one of the offences was of overcharging for consumer goods.

When Mr Sharma questioned Mr Prasad if Ms Chand’s business was a first offender, Mr Prasad told the court no.

Mr Prasad also told the court there was a court proceedings against the business but it was dismissed.

Mr Sharma then highlighted to the court that on June 4, 2011, the business was issued with a warning for selling expired goods and also told the court that no spot fine was issued at that time.

Mr Prasad confirmed to the court that on two occasions, the Commission visited the business and issued warnings, however, no spot fine was issued at that time.

The hearing continues today.

Feedback: ashna.kumar@fijisun.com.fj

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