A DEFENCE witness in the trial of Laisenia Qarase confirmed it was common knowledge at the Fiji Development Bank (FDB) that Q-Ten Investments Limited belonged to the Qarase family.
Mr Qarase is being tried in the High Court in Suva for six counts of abuse of office and three counts of discharge of duty with respect to property in which he has a private interest.
Navitalai Cakacaka, a bank officer with FDB was the third defence witness to give evidence.
When Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC) lawyer, Senior Counsel Michael Blanchflower directed his attention to Q-Ten Investments Limited's application for an FDB loan, he said he knew Q-Ten belonged to the Qarase family.
Mr Cakacaka said FHL dividends in these cases were assigned to FDB for the repayment of loans and acknowledged that Mr and Mrs Qarase had joint and several liability for Q-Ten.
And that this meant one of the two would have to repay the loan if the other could not, an incentive for Mr Qarase to want the FDB loan paid back.
He also told Mr Qarase's lawyer, Tupou Draunidalo, that Q-Ten's loan application had to go before the FBD board of directors because Mr Qarase was a staff member and that this was the same practice for any staff member.
He said he had knowledge of the Q-Ten file but did not handle it as it was handled by another FDB officer and could not remember if he had prepared Q-Ten's paper for the board.
Mr Cakacaka was examined first by Ms Draunidalo to whom he confirmed the existence of FDB's Fiji Loan Scheme.
He said the scheme started in 1975 and offered loans with subsidised interest rates for all sorts of ventures unless it involved agriculture and fisheries for Fijians listed in the Vola Ni KawaBula.
He told her the scheme was used to finance the purchasing of shares from Fijian Holdings Limited (FHL) and that he could not recall if this was done for the first time in 1991 or 1992.
He said FHL shares were highly sought after as people who took loans were advised about FHL shares and that there was a rush for the shares when they were first offered through FDB.
Mr Cakacaka told Ms Draunidalo the scheme was well-marketed through the media and other modes and that it was also made known to provincial councils and tikina councils by FDB officers.
He told her it was a requirement for loan applicants to provide equity, meet certain criteria and be approved by the board.
Mr Cakacaka said to his personal knowledge, the demand for FHL shares increased after FHL went public as the number of shareholders and shares allotted were limited before this time.
Under cross-examination by Mr Blanchflower, Mr Cakacaka confirmed Mr Qarase was FDB's manager when FDB began financing the buying of FHL shares and had been so for some time.
He said Mr Qarase, who joined FDB in 1984 was also a board member and he was not. He said he did not have knowledge of personal matters the board discussed.
While he admitted not being aware of provisions in the FDB Act on disclosures of interest, he said it was a bank policy for members of the board of directors to declare their interest if they had any in matters before the board to avoid conflicts of interest.