Former diplomat pleads not guilty

Solo Mara in an earlier appearance in court. Picture: JONA KONATACI/FT FILE

Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF) secretary general and former diplomat Solo Mara has pleaded not guilty to charges laid against him by the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC).

Mr Mara appeared before Chief Magistrate Usaia Ratuvili yesterday.

He was charged by FICAC in January this year with one count each of disobedience of lawful order and giving false or misleading information. It is alleged Mr Mara failed to comply with a search warrant that had been issued by FICAC.

He is also alleged to have given information to a FICAC investigating officer knowing that it was not true.

FICAC lawyer Darren Hickes informed the court there were partial admissions in Mr Mara’s caution interview statement which prosecution would rely on.

Defence lawyer Sharoneel Deo said answers in Mr Mara’s caution interview statement were honest and not admissions in relation to the offences.

Mr Ratuvili will fix a trial date when the case is next called. The matter has been adjourned to June 30.

Meanwhile, for Mr Mara’s second case where he is facing charges of one count each of obtaining a financial advantage and causing a loss was also adjourned to the same date for plea.

He is alleged to have caused payments to be made to himself from the Washington embassy funds amounting to $38,481.17 while serving as Fiji’s ambassador to the US in 2017.

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