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$2m fine

Mere Naleba
Saturday, May 03, 2014

FIJI Labour Party's leader of 22 years Mahendra Pal Chaudhry was spared jail and fined $2million by the High Court in Suva yesterday.

And judge Justice Paul Madigan ordered the former prime minister to pay it by June 30 or face a 15-month jail term after he was found guilty of three counts of breaching the Exchange Control Act.

Justice Madigan said the court could not accept the submission made by Chaudhry's lawyer, Matthew Hutchings, that Chaudhry committed a technical breach of the ECA and the charge was of insignificant capability.

"It is a wilful and determined breach of the Act in spite of warnings and advice and a breach that the accused allowed to continue over a period of years," he said.

"A technical breach might perhaps be committed by a new immigrant to Fiji who has left unforgotten a current bank account in Hong Kong with a few hundred dollars to its credit. Technically a breach but with no intention to defeat the revenue or to continue to do so."

The facts of the case are that between November 1, 2000, and July 23, 2010, Chaudhry tried to sell foreign currency when he was not an authorised dealer.

The particulars of the offence stated Chaudhry was to sell the foreign currencies in his possession to an authorised dealer, however, he retained the sum of $1.5million for his own use and benefit, without the consent of the governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji.

Chaudhry was charged with one count of failure to surrender foreign currency, another of dealing in foreign currency otherwise than with an authorised dealer without permission and another of failure to collect debts.

In sentencing, Justice Madigan said if the funds had been brought into the Fijian Inland Revenue at the time when the money was deposited into Chaudhry's bank account, the economy of the country could have benefitted from the funds.

"The only way to compensate the nation for the failure of the accused to comply with the law is to impose a large fine on him to bring money back into the revenue."

Chaudhry said the Fiji Labour Party would issue a statement on its new leadership on Monday.

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