13 November, 2018, 6:00 am
THE Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC) had failed to prove the essential elements of the case that was laid against the former prime minister Sitiveni Rabuka, said Chief Justice Anthony Gates.
“The duplicity of the charges that was laid against the former prime minister Sitiveni Rabuka was fatal to the prosecution’s case and essential elements were not proved,” Justice Gates said as he subsequently dismissed the appeal against Mr Rabuka’s acquittal in the High Court yesterday.
A large crowd of supporters, who waited outside the High Court and the Government Buildings in Suva yesterday, cheered after Justice Gates’ announcement and raised their voices in joy as they sang We have overcome.
FICAC was also ordered to pay $4000 as costs to Mr Rabuka within the next 14 days. Mr Rabuka was charged with contrary to Section 24(1A) and 24(5) of the Political Parties Act.
It was alleged that Sitiveni Rabuka last year, as the leader of a registered political party, provided a false declaration to provide information namely, the tax liability with Fiji Revenue and Customs Services (FRCS) in the amount of $31,956.20, the investment and interest income with Raghwan Construction Ltd in the amount of $200,000 and $16,000 respectively and the liability with the said construction company in the amount of $120,000 contrary to Sections 24(1A) and 24(5) of the Political Parties Act.
Justice Gates said the offence in Section 24(5) of the Political Parties Act is worded: “(5) Any person who fails to comply with the requirements of subsection(1),(1A),(1B) or (2), or provides any information that is false, commits an offence and shall be liable upon conviction to a fine not exceeding $50,000 or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 10 years or to both.” Justice Gates reiterated that in the charges as drafted both limbs of Section 24(5) are included.
He said it was no surprise therefore that leading defence counsel should protest about its duplicity as the two offences had been merged into one charge.
He said it could be seen with significantly two different elements of proof.
He said one was strict and the other required proof of knowledge of the falsity of the information.
Justice Gates said the learned magistrate was correct at arriving at his conclusion that the prosecution had failed to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt and it was futile to speculate further.
He also highlighted that there was limited concession on good character by the prosecution, perhaps not as far as the magistrate had noted as there was undoubtedly co-operation by a busy person with the investigative agency.
Justice Gates said it was the caution interview that the prosecution relied on to establish knowledge of falsehood.
He further added that there was variance in some answers as to whether inadvertence, old age, led to the requirement to reveal what had been left out, a mistake of law.
Justice Gates said FICAC’s interview had left many answers unprobed or unclarified.
He said such interviews should always be conducted on the basis that reliance may have to be made solely on the procedure.
He said the accused had submitted himself voluntarily to being questioned on the reasons for his conduct, he need not have said anything but he did.
Justice Gates said further clarifications would have been needed to establish proof beyond reasonable doubt of wrongdoing within the charge.
Hundreds of people were present at the Government Buildings in Suva to congratulate Mr Rabuka and his legal team.