FORMER prime minister Laisenia Qarase did not hold a civil service position when he was adviser to the Fijian Affairs Board and Great Council of Chiefs, the Fiji Court of Appeal heard yesterday.
Appealing against Qarase's conviction and sentence, Queen's Counsel Remy van de Wiel said Mr Qarase did not abuse his authority for the purpose of gain.
He informed the court that Qarase was not a shareholder of Mavana Investments Limited but he was an unpaid director.
He said Qarase's duty in 1991 as adviser to the Fijian Affairs Board was to provide advice and he did not have an office under the Fijian Affairs Act.
Mr van de Wiel also said that his client was an unpaid adviser to Cicia Plantation Co-op Society.
He said Qarase was not employed in the public service as adviser to the Council of Chiefs, adding that the position did not exist.
He said in relation to Cicia Plantation, applications for shares could have been made by anybody, there was no prominence given to any application and that all applications went through the same process.
He said there was no prohibition that kept directors from applying for shares and owning shares.
He said also at that time, members of the FHL board were encouraged to buy shares from FHL.
He said FHL as a company encouraged the indigenous people to separate themselves from communalisation.
Mr van de Wiel also highlighted the ability for a general notice to be issued by any board member who wished to take up dealings with the company.
However, he mentioned that there were no specific details as to the form of which the notice was to be given prior to any submission of application for shares by board members.
In his submission he informed the court that FHL received applications for shares from interested companies, after which the then board secretary Sitiveni Weleilakeba, conducted background checks on the applicants and if shareholders were registered under the iVola Ni Kawa Bula (VKB) or not.
He submitted that the trial judge should have made an independent assessment on the evidence, and should have reminded the assessors that the alleged offence happened 20 years prior to the trial.