THE trial proper of former prime minister Laisenia Qarase began yesterday in the High Court in Suva and two witnesses took the stand.
First witness, Ratu Meli Bainimarama told Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC) counsel Micheal Blanchflower that Mr Qarase was appointed financial advisor to the Fijian Affairs Board (FAB) and Great Council of Chiefs (GCC).
He said government invested $20million in Fijian Holdings Limited (FHL), by then a public company, making FAB a shareholder.
Mr Bainimarama said Mr Qarase had presented a paper to FAB proposing the provision of funds for the iTaukei to allow them to enter the commercial sector.
The intention, he said, was to allow more iTaukei to benefit from FHL and after GCC approval more shareholders were accepted while shares were divided into classes A and B.
Mr Bainimarama told defence lawyer Tupou Draunidalo that class B shares were for provincial councils and iTaukei institutions like iTaukei Land Trust Board while class A shares were for individuals.
He also told Ms Draunidalo he had served as a proxy for FAB and that Mr Qarase was not formally contracted as financial advisor but appointed.
Second witness, Sitiveni Weleilakeba told Mr Blanchflower Mr Qarase had researched the idea for FHL's inception which was adopted from Malaysia.
He said as secretary of FHL he had never encountered board members disagreeing over matters they discussed or not wanting to vote on a matter. Mr Weleilakeba said if members did they had to tell the chairman and indicate if they wanted it recorded in the meeting minutes.
He said members also had to indicate if they had a direct interest or were a direct beneficiary of any matter the board discussed and that the board had the final say on who became shareholders.
The trial continues today.