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Former MP’s Mailbox Had Not Mails: Witness

‘Mailbox information was only given to the Parliament and not to any other statutory body’
30 Sep 2022 09:19
Former MP’s Mailbox Had Not Mails: Witness
Former FijiFirst MP, Vijendra Prakash outside the Suva High Court on September 19, 2022. File Photo

A witness told the court yesterday that former FijiFirst Member of Parliament, Vijendra Prakash, had a postal box at the Vunidawa Post Office in February 2019; however, no mails were received for Prakash’s mailbox.

Prakash is charged by the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC) with one count each of false information to a public servant and obtaining financial advantage.

He is alleged to have obtained financial advantages in breach of the Parliamentary Remunerations Act of 2014.

Prakash is alleged to have falsely stated that his permanent place of residence was in Waidracia, Vunidawa, Nabuni, Naluwai, Naitasiri, and allegedly obtained $33,670 between August 2019 and March 2020.

 

The trial is presided over by the Anti-Corruption High Court Judge Justice Dr Thushara Kumarage.

FICAC’s witness, Tokasa Luvu Shein Lin, has been working at the Vunidawa Post Office since July 2014 and was the sole employee based at the Post Office.

She said she had issued a postal box to Prakash on February 8, 2019, and the details of the box owner were entered in their system.

She said the address provided by Prakash during the registration was Waidravu, Naitasiri.

She said between February 8, 2019 and July 2022, there were no mails received for the postal box belonging to Prakash.

 

Witness Says Prakash Never Goes To Post Office

The Judge asked the witness that although the customer obtained the box it was never used.

Ms Lin said yes, adding that Prakash never went back to the Post Office.

FICAC prosecutor Ashish Nand wished to show the witness photographs of Prakash’s postal box.

 

The Judge asked the prosecutor of the objective of presenting the photographs to which Mr Nand responded saying that the postal box was allegedly obtained for the purpose of the Member of Parliament Declaration Form (MPDF).

Mr Nand said Prakash allegedly opened the postal box at the Vunidawa Post Office and provided the information to Parliament, after which it was never used by Prakash.

He claimed that the postal box was obtained to show that not only Prakash permanently resided in Naitasiri but had a post box there too.

He said the Vunidawa Post Office box information was only given to the Parliament and not to any other statutory body.

 

Justice Dr Kumarage said to the Prosecutor that it was their theory of this case and that the court was not bothered about the Prosecution’s theory.

He said the Prosecution had to provide the elements of the charge. He said to the Prosecutor not to waste the time of this court and that the evidence which could be concluded in 35 minutes, the Prosecution took two hours and 20 minutes on it.

The Judge further told the Prosecutor if there were matters contested, go all out on it, but if it was not relevant then not to waste the court’s time.

He said he came from a country where if the lawyers did not know their case, the Judge would ask them to get out.He said those were the practice and the counsels in this country were lucky such practice was not conducted here.

 

The Judge said trials were different from application matters and counsels had to be very smart on their feet to do trials.

He asked the counsels to put two and two together and ask relevant questions.

Another FICAC witness, Vodafone Fiji’s chief technology officer Vikash Prasad took the stand.

He gave evidence that a mobile number was issued to Prakash registered through Parliament House.

 

He said he also gave FICAC Prakash’s call data record (CDR) which consisted of Prakash’s outgoing and incoming calls and outgoing and incoming sms between the period of December 2018 and June 2020.

Prakash’s lawyer Sidharth Nandan objected to the document being tendered as Prosecution’s exhibit on the grounds that the specifications were the worst kind.

He said the document did not show who had the mobile phone when the calls were made.

He said the only thing shown on the document were the location from where the calls were made from.

 

He added that the court was trolling through voluminous data consisting of approximately two years of calls which was impossible to be precise about who made the calls and who had the mobile phone at that particular time.

Mr Nandan said there was no doubt a mobile phone was given to Prakash by the Parliament and that the CDR document was a jumble of data.

He said it was unfair to put this evidence before the court and the defence.

Mr Nand responded saying that the MPs were advised by the Parliament on how to use the gadgets and that the registered user of the mobile phone was Prakash.

 

He said the defence’s complaint of voluminous data was baseless because at the end of the day, evidence was evidence.

He said the defence claimed they did not know who made the calls but the registered user was Prakash.

He said voluminous data was an advantage, not prejudicial which meant more data, more calls made.

 

The Judge overruled the objection saying that the court saw that the mobile phone was given to Prakash by Parliament.

He said as a result, the Prosecution was trying to add to their case that the use of the phone connected to the elements in the charges.

He said there was no impediment that could rise on prosecution leading to the evidence.

He said this was not a public phone that was in question and that there was no bar in our Law to stop Prosecution from leading this evidence.

 

 Feedback: ashna.kumar@fijisun.com.fj



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