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Qarase ruling on notice

Nanise Loanakadavu
Thursday, February 28, 2013

THREE Fiji Court of Appeal judges will deliver their ruling on notice in relation to former prime minister Laisenia Qarase's appeal against conviction and sentence.

Acting court president Justice William Callanchini, Justice Suresh Chandra and Justice Eric Basiniyake said they would need time to reach a decision.

Yesterday, during his closing submissions, Qarase's Queen's Counsel Remy van de Wiel informed the judges the reason for appealing was because the defence counsel at the time of the trial, Tupou Draunidalo, was not experienced enough to be familiar with criminal court of law.

QC Van de Wiel highlighted the prosecution's duty that they were not to get a conviction at any cost but as officers of the court, they should ensure assistance was provided to the community and uphold their duty in order to achieve a fair trial.

He said trial judge Justice Priyantha Fernando did not put forward any alternative scenario for the three assessors to consider.

QC Van de Wiel said the judge had a duty to raise all possible defences in the summing up, even where the defence overlooked certain points, particularly Qarase's good character, during the trial.

He said any responsible judge would have seen and analysed all facts and directed the assessors accordingly before any decision.

He said former Fijian Holidings Limited secretary Sitiveni Weleilakeba had given evidence that he knew Qarase well but he signed the application for Cicia Plantation Co-op Society Limited as a director anyway. He highlighted that a position of a public officer could not be created if a person was nominated by shareholders of a company.

He said the issues raised by FICAC's senior counsel, Michael Blanchflower, that the three companies — Cicia Plantation Co-op Society Limited, Mavana Investments Limited and Q10 Investment Limited — had a special nature, was totally inappropriate.

However, he said the companies would have been special as they were established for a special reason because iTaukei people were encouraged to buy shares then.