Sayed-Khaiyum’s undeclared shares

FijiFirst party leader Voreqe Bainimarama and general secretary Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. Picture: FIJI TIMES ONLINE

Former attorney-general and FijiFirst party (FFP) general secretary Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum did not declare the value of shares he owns in two companies in his asset declarations filed with the Fijian Elections Office since 2017, a Fiji Times investigation has found.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum’s asset declarations between 2016 and 2022 said that he and his wife Ela were shareholders in two companies, Midlife Investments Pte Ltd and Abide Pte Ltd.

From title records obtained by The Fiji Times, Midlife appears to own a property in Nadi while Abide appears to own a property on the Coral Coast. Section 24 of the Political Parties (Regulation, Conduct, Funding and Disclosures) Act requires political party officials to disclose to the Registrar of Political Parties their “total assets”, together with the total assets of their spouses and dependent children.

The declaration form requires declarants to show the description of the asset, the name of the holder of the asset and “value declared”.

As general secretary of the FijiFirst party, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum was required by s.24 of the Political Parties Act to file annual declarations of his assets, income, business connections, directorships, business transactions, gifts received, assets acquired, and liabilities incurred or discharged.

In his declarations for the years 2016 through to 2022, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum declared monetary values for his home in Vunakece Rd, Suva, his bank accounts, and a motor vehicle.

He also declared that he and his wife held shares in the two companies.

However, for the shares listed, the column “value declared” was left blank in each of the declarations.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum’s declarations differed from asset declarations made by FijiFirst leader and former prime minister Voreqe Bainimarama for 2019, which were witnessed by Mr Sayed-Khaiyum.

In his 2019 declaration Mr Bainimarama declared that he owned shares in two companies, Tailevu Dairy Farmers Co-operative Association Ltd (value $4326) and Fijian Holdings Ltd (value $160,468).

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum has not responded to questions emailed to him by The Fiji Times on whether his declarations met the requirements of the Political Parties Act.

In his declarations Mr Sayed-Khaiyum has also disclosed personal guarantees he and his wife have given for bank loans taken out by the two companies.

For Abide Ltd, the personal guarantees amounted to just under $500,000 in 2022.

For Midlife Ltd, the personal guarantees increased from $1,773,000 in 2019 to $2,767,000 in 2021. They then increased again for the 2022 year to $3,560,000.

The Fiji Times has asked Mr Sayed-Khaiyum if the increase in his personal guarantees reflected “business transactions” in which he was involved.

Under s.24 of the Political Parties Act a political party official must declare any “business transaction” entered into by the official during the period covered by the declaration. Mr Sayed-Khaiyum has not responded to these questions.

Asked last month whether Mr Sayed-Khaiyum’s declarations followed the law, FEO acting manager Legal Mesake Dawai replied: “FEO is not aware of the anomalies highlighted. However we welcome the findings that you have made.

“The FEO is willing to look into this and to assist us in furthering the investigations, we would be grateful if you could please submit your findings in the form of a complaint addressed to the acting registrar of Political Parties.”

The Fiji Times editor in chief Fred Wesley said the newspaper would not submit a complaint.

“Our role as a media organisation is to provide information to the public. It is not to take legal positions against political party officers,” he said.

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