Crime & Court

‘I’m Not Guilty’- Benjamin Padarath

Former political candidate Benjamin Padarath yesterday pleaded not guilty to charges relating to his social media posts.
01 Apr 2021 11:04
‘I’m Not Guilty’- Benjamin Padarath
Accused Ben Padarath (left) outside the Suva courthouse, with his lawyer Filimoni Vosarogo on March 31, 2021. Photo: Ronald Kumar

Former political candidate Benjamin Padarath yesterday pleaded not guilty to charges relating to his social media posts.

Padarath appeared before Magistrate Jeremiah Savou.

He was represented by Filimoni Vosarogo.

The charges: 

The Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC) has charged Padarath with sedition, attempting to defeat the course of justice, destroying evidence and disobedience of lawful orders.

It is alleged that Padarath, on or about March 28, 2021, at Lautoka, did an act with seditious intention or uttered seditious words by posting information pertaining to an ongoing FICAC investigation on Facebook, with an intention to bring hatred or excite disaffection against the administration of justice in Fiji.

It is also alleged that Padarath, on or about March 28, 2021, at Lautoka, attempted to obstruct, prevent, pervert or defeat the course of justice by posting information pertaining to an ongoing FICAC investigation on Facebook.

He is also alleged to have wilfully removed or destroyed evidence from his phone, on or about March 29, 2021, at Lautoka, knowing that his mobile phone may be required as evidence in a judicial proceeding.

It is also alleged that Padarath, on or about March 31, 2021, at Suva, disobeyed a lawful search warrant issued by the court, by refusing to comply with the warrant.

Election of Court:

FICAC prosecutor Joseph Work said the charges of sedition and disobedience of lawful orders were indictable but triable summarily.

The first phase of disclosures has been served to the defence; however, the State is seeking 21 days to file and serve the second phase of disclosures. Padarath elected that the cases of the two charges be heard in the Magistrates Court.

Bail arguments:

Mr Work objected to Padarath’s bail because the matter was of public interest. He said giving Padarath bail would be prejudice to the ongoing investigation.

Mr Vosarogo argued that Padarath was arrested on Monday at 7pm and was in FICAC custody since then. He said Padarath had entered his plea immediately and the charges against him would be heavily defended.

He also told the court that the prosecution could not expect Padarath to be remanded until the trial took place, which would not be anytime soon. As a bail condition, Mr Vosarogo said Padarath could shut down his social media platforms.

He said he was ready to argue for a bail hearing, however, Mr Work said he could file an affidavit by today and a bail hearing could be heard on Tuesday.

Mr Work reiterated that the charges against Padarath were serious and investigations were ongoing.

Jurisdiction argument:

Magistrate Savou questioned FICAC on the issue of jurisdiction because three of the four alleged offence occurred in Lautoka, while Padarath was produced in Suva.

Mr Vosarogo then told the court that the charges of sedition, attempting to defeat the course of justice, and destroying evidence were said to have been committed in the Lautoka jurisdiction, which was subject to jurisdiction issue.

As to the charge of disobedience of lawful orders, he said they were allegedly committed in Suva while Padarath was in FICAC custody.

Mr Work confirmed this as well, adding that the charges contained deliberate constrains of disobedience of lawful order and it arose from the same facts of the arrest in Lautoka.

Mr Vosarogo also told the court that the when the search warrant was given to Padarath, he was also asked to give his Facebook account with a password, which was a breach of privacy.

Magistrate Savou said he would deliver a ruling on the jurisdiction and bail issues today.

Padarath remains in FICAC’s custody.

Meanwhile, charges have also been laid against Padarath’s partner and acting secretary- general of Fiji Labour Party Taina Rokotabua.

She has been charged with one count of giving false information to FICAC officer and attempting to defeat the course of justice. She was released on bail yesterday.

Edited by Naisa Koroi

Feedback: ashna.kumar@fijisun.com.fj



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