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Case to answer

Shalveen Chand
Friday, April 04, 2014

THE assessors in the trial of former prime minister Mahendra Chaudhry were told yesterday the trial was an extraordinary one.

Mr Chaudhry is charged with three counts of violating the Exchange Control Act for allegedly having kept $A1.5million ($F2.5m) given by the people of India in an Australian bank without the authorisation of the Reserve Bank of Fiji (RBF).

Justice Paul Madigan dismissing the no-case-to-answer application by the defence.

He ruled the letter by RBF solicitors to Mr Chaudhry directed him on what to do in regards to the foreign currency he had abroad. Justice Madigan ruled the other grounds held no merits.

The prosecution presented only one witness and the defence chose to remain silent and didn't produce any.

Justice Madigan then directed the counsel to proceed with their closing addresses.

State counsel Clive Grossman said the Exchange Control Act was a law which demanded that Fiji residents bring their foreign currency back into the country or declare it to the RBF.

He said the law was the law whether conceived to be bad or good.

Mr Grossman said Mr Chaudhry received the money from the people of India and kept it in the Commonwealth Bank in Australia which was not an authorised dealer sanctioned by RBF.

He said Mr Chaudhry was to offer this money to an authorised dealer of the RBF, a local bank, which he didn't.

He said Mr Chaudhry then went ahead and invested the money with the Australian bank without RBF's approval.

Defence lawyer Peter Bodor said it had been an extraordinary trial, compared with what had been expected.

He said there were 31 admitted facts, a few pieces of documentary evidence and few minutes of oral evidence.

He told the assessors that based on this, they were being asked to give their findings on the case.

He said Mr Chaudhry didn't claim that he didn't receive the money.

Mr Bodor said Mr Chaudhry admitted the money was deposited by the consul of India for his hardships after he was deposed in May 2000.

He said Mr Chaudhry still maintains he was not guilty.

He added the RBF solicitors did write to Mr Chaudhry, to which Mr Chaudhry responded and asked for directions which never came.

According to Mr Bodor, had Mr Chaudhry thought he had breached the law he would have done something about it.

Justice Madigan will sum up the case this morning.

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