Prove case, FICAC told

SODELPA leader Sitiveni Rabuka. Picture: JOVESA NAISUA

THE Supervisor of Elections should have presented a certificate or Gazette notice in court to prove that SODELPA was a registered political party, Chief Justice Anthony Gates said yesterday.

He made the comment while hearing the appeal by the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC) against the acquittal of SODELPA leader Sitiveni Rabuka by the Magistrates Court last month.

Justice Gates asked FICAC counsel Rashmi Aslam whether FICAC investigators had questioned Mr Rabuka about SODELPA’s registration. He said the said exercise was necessary as it would help to prove the prosecution’s case beyond reasonable doubt.

The Chief Justice told the prosecutor that it was imperative for FICAC to find other methods to prove its case. Mr Rabuka was acquitted last month on charges that he failed to declare his assets, liabilities and income contrary to the Political Parties Act.

Justice Gates said when Mr Rabuka was interviewed, FICAC could have presented a series of documents to him during the video interview.

Mr Aslam agreed that FICAC should have submitted certain documents to Mr Rabuka when they interviewed him, but argued that the Supervisor of Elections was also the Registrar of Political Parties.

Mr Aslam said the supervisor was competent to speak about the registration of political parties.

He said the supervisor had clearly said that Mr Rabuka was SODELPA’s leader.

However, he said, the magistrate in his judgment had stated that the supervisor’s evidence was hearsay and inadmissible.

Mr Aslam also said enough evidence could be derived from Mr Rabuka’s caution interview to prove that he was SODELPA’s leader and that he was appointed through the party’s constitution.

Mr Aslam described Mr Rabuka as a well-educated individual.

He said Mr Rabuka had been meticulous when he filed his tax return to the Fiji Revenue and Customs Service (FRCS).

Mr Aslam said it was impossible for Mr Rabuka to make a mistake about his assets.

He said Mr Rabuka’s action was deliberate and that the court must convict him. He said the judgment of the High Court should set a benchmark.

In response, Mr Rabuka’s counsel, Filimoni Vosarogo, said the prosecution was aware that the issue of SODELPA’s registration was not an agreed fact.

It was, therefore, FICAC’s task to prove that Mr Rabuka was an office holder and that SODELPA was a registered political party.

Mr Vosarogo said the prosecution had the opportunity to rectify the two issues before they closed their case, but now they were trying to rectify the pieces of evidence that they lacked in the Magistrates Court by taking the case to the High Court. Mr Vosarogo stressed that courts ran on evidence and did not work on assumptions.

Mr Vosarogo pleaded with the court to ensure that it upheld the rule of law when it delivered its judgment.

FICAC had alleged Mr Rabuka provided a false declaration of assets and liabilities to the Supervisor of Elections.

It said Mr Rabuka failed to give information about his tax liability with Fiji Revenue and Customs Service of $316,956.20.

FICAC said Mr Rabuka also failed to disclose investment and interest income from Raghwan Construction Ltd of $200,000 and $16,000 and a liability to Raghwan Construction Ltd of $120,000.

The Suva Magistrates Court acquitted Mr Rabuka of the charges, leading to the FICAC appeal.

Judgment will be delivered on Monday.

 

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