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He's out of polls

Shalveen Chand
Friday, August 15, 2014

FORMER prime minister Mahendra Chaudhry's appeal against conviction for violating the Exchange Control Act was dismissed by the Court of Appeal in Suva yesterday.

The judgment means Chaudhry cannot be a candidate in the general election on September 17.

The consolation for the Fiji Labour Party leader is that he was partly successful in his appeal against his sentence resulting in the reduction of his fine from $2million to $1m. According to the orders of the court, the conviction is reaffirmed, the fine reduced to $1m and the remainder of the sentence reaffirmed.

Chaudhry had appealed against his conviction on 10 grounds.

Ground one claimed there was bias on the part of the trial judge, while the others claimed errors of law and facts.

There was only one ground of appeal against his sentence.

Chaudhry was convicted of three counts of violating the Exchange Control Act.

He had failed to declare $A1.5m which he kept in Australia.

On May 2 this year, the High Court in Suva sentenced Chaudhry to pay a fine of $2m and to repatriate funds he kept in banks in Australia.

The conviction meant Chaudhry was not eligible to contest the general election because he did not qualify as a candidate according to requirements set out in Section 23(4)(g) of the Electoral Decree.

The section states a person cannot be a candidate if in the past eight years before nomination, he was convicted of an offence which has a maximum term of imprisonment of more than 12 months. The maximum jail term prescribed for the offence Chaudhry was convicted of is two years.

Chaudhry was given an early hearing date for his appeal by the Court of Appeal to allow the appeal to be determined before nominations close.

The appeal decision means the FLP leader remains ineligible to be a candidate.

In an interview, Chaudhry said he would need to peruse the ruling before he would comment on his next course of action.

Nominations for the general election close at noon on August 18.

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