Crime & Court

Sharma To File A No Case To Answer For Mara Case

Lawyer Devanesh Sharma, who is representing the former Fijian Ambassador to the United States of America and diplomat, Solo Naivakarurubalavu Mara, will file a no case to answer application. This
28 Oct 2020 09:45
Sharma To File A No Case To Answer For Mara Case
Solo Naivakarurubalavu Mara with his lawyers Devanesh Sharma (right) and Sharoneel Deo (back) from R Patel Lawyers outside the Magistrates Court in Suva on October 26, 2020. Photo: Ashna Kumar

Lawyer Devanesh Sharma, who is representing the former Fijian Ambassador to the United States of America and diplomat, Solo Naivakarurubalavu Mara, will file a no case to answer application.

This is in the case where Mara is facing charges for disobeying a search warrant and giving false or misleading information to FICAC officials.

He is charged by the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC).

Mara appeared before Chief Magistrate, Usaia Ratuvili, for the second day of his trial.

Mara is alleged to have disobeyed a search warrant signed by the Court allowing FICAC investigators to search Mara’s house on January 24.

He is also alleged to have given false or misleading passwords to his gmail account to a FICAC investigator between January 23 and January 24 this year.

Mara is represented by lawyers, Mr Sharma and Sharoneel Deo, from R Patel Lawyers while the state is represented by lawyers Sam Savumiramira and Darren Hicks from FICAC.

Hearing Day 2:

FICAC called its third prosecution witness, Aporosa Vuinakelo.

Mr Vuinakelo is FICAC’s digital forensic investigator having certified forensic computer examiner knowledge and qualifications.

He told the court that he was instructed by the chief investigator to assist the team in obtaining electronic evidence from Mara’s residence with the execution of the search warrant.

He told the court that prior to the execution of the warrant, the email smara@fijiembassy.com and smara1409@gmail.com were used to communicate in an investigation relating to when Mara was the Fijian Ambassador to the US based in Washington DC.

He said, the first search warrant was executed to Mara on January 23, 2020, and that he was present when Mara had been informed of the warrant.

The warrant stated to obtain username and passwords of both email addresses, and seize all electronic devices with its passwords related to the investigation.

He also told the court that Mara had acknowledged the warrant, however, upon requesting him the password for his gmail account, Mara refused to give it.

He claimed that Mara gave a purported password to his gmail account and wrote it in a diary.

Mr Vuinakelo contacted his colleague at the FICAC office to access the gmail account using the password provided, however, he was advised by his colleague that the password had been changed two months prior to the day.

He again asked Mara for the password. Mara refused to provide the password. He however, surrendered his mobile phone.

He told the court that he proceeded to isolate the device by putting it on airplane mode and searched for all other devices.

Mr Vuinakelo further told the court that on January 24, 2020, Mara had refused to give the password again when the team had approached Mara at his residence with a search warrant.

He told the court that Mara was advised that failure to give the password will have him arrested for disobedience of a lawful order. Mara responded with ‘sure’ and the team proceeded with the arrest.

Cross-examination:

Mara’s lawyer, Mr Sharma questioned the witness that the warrant dated January 23, 2020, had a note handwritten by the Magistrate saying the search could be conducted at night to which Mr Vuinakelo responded yes.

Mr Sharma questioned the witness that the warrant did not authorise him to ask questions to Mara, however, he had the supplementary powers such as the Judge’s Rule to which Mr Vuinakelo told the court that he guessed so.

Mr Vuinakelo told the court that, executing of warrants required them to ask questions to Mara and that there was no need to caution him beforehand that he would be asked questions.

Mr Sharma also questioned the witness whether he had taken any screenshot of the computer screens when they entered the password provided by Mara and of the screen when the password was stated to be incorrect.

Mr Vuinakelo told the court that he did not take any screenshot as specified by Mr Sharma. He also revealed that when Mara’s phone was searched for data, it revealed that Mara’s phone was never used to access his gmail account.

After the witness gave evidence, State lawyer, Mr Savumiramira told the court that he spoke with the defence and agreed to tender the transcript of the audio and video recordings of Mara’s caution interview. He then closed the prosecution’s case.

Mr Sharma then told the court that he would be making a no case to answer application.

Chief Magistrate Ratuvili ordered the state and defence to prepare their written and oral submissions to argue the no case to answer application this morning.

Edited by Selita Bolanavanua

Feedback: ashna.kumar@fijisun.com.fj



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