Lest we forget Chaudhry’s bank account in New Zealand

“As Winston Peters, the former Foreign Minister and New Zealand First party leader, fights to save his reputation over a $100,000 gift scandal from a wealthy business tycoon, a group of former Fiji residents in New Zealand, who do not want to be identified at this point, want to know from the leader of the Fiji Labour Party Mahendra Chaudhry about the source of his funds in a New Zealand bank account which probably stood at $400,000 in 2004.

There is hardly any discussion or information about Chaudhry’s bank account in New Zealand, with the three-member inquiry team into his tax affairs, concluding as follows: “As noted above, FIRCA’s file does not disclose how they concluded that the monies invested into the New Zealand term deposit in September 2000 were non-taxable, although the committee notes that those funds were invested soon after the events of May 2000, which led to Mr Chaudhry ceasing to be Prime Minister of Fiji and very close to the times at which the deposits into the Australian account were made.

“In any event, the amount invested into the New Zealand account was small (less than 8 per cent of the total funds invested in the Australian and New Zealand accounts).”

The “Report of Independent Inquiry into the taxation affairs of Mahendra Pal Chaudhry” was prepared by the team that was hastily cobbled together after I disclosed in the Fiji Sun in February 2008 that Chaudhry had been hiding $2million in a secret bank account in Sydney, Australia, and that he had made late lodgement of his 2001, 2002, and 2003 tax returns.

Were the late lodgements, I asked, a deliberate ploy on Mr Chaudhry’s part to avoid explaining to FIRCA in 2004 the original source of his $2million in the Australian bank account, which we know originated from India, and was allegedly sent by one Harbhajan Lal of Haryana? I will return to the subject of the New Zealand fund later in the column.

Meanwhile, Chaudhry recently told Fiji TV “Close Up” programme that he did not receive any money from India, even though in March he had claimed on Fiji TV that the money was for him and his family. If we are to accept his denial then the whole inquiry by FIRCA and the three-member team is cancelled out, raising the question of how the inquiry team arrived at its conclusions.

The inquiry team had, based on the 20 September 2004 letter from Harbhajan Lal, concluded in its report that the money came from India: “As noted earlier, in response to FIRCA’s enquiries, Mr Chaudhry and his advisers provided to FIRCA information which ultimately satisfied them that the monies were paid into Mr Chaudhry’s account by the Indian Consulate in Sydney on behalf of supporters of Mr Chaudhry in India, in order to assist him and his family to relocate to Australia consequent on the circumstances surrounding his ceasing to be Prime Minister of Fiji in 2000.”

At the expense of repeating, it is of paramount importance to remind Chaudhry and the nation about the sequence of events which led to the discovery of his secret millions. According to his tax file, in the course of its investigation, FIRCA’s Income Matching Unit (IMU) became aware of his bank accounts in Australia and New Zealand and, on May 11, 2004, wrote to him advising him that they had received information from surveys and banks and financial institutions that he was in receipt of income, which had either not been declared or under declared. He was given 14 days to make representations to FIRCA on receipt of the letter.

On May 18, 2004, Chaudhry wrote to IMU informing it that interest on bank accounts earned in Fiji had been declared in his tax returns and he did not hold any trust deeds. What about the monies abroad? He replied: “In so far as interest from monies held in accounts abroad are concerned, please be advised that these have not been brought to Fiji but remain re-invested in the accounts there.”

On June 3, 2004, the IMU pointed out to him that he had amassed interest and dividends for the year ending 2002 of $29,606.84 and there was a discrepancy of the same amount.

On the margins of Chaudhry’s May 18, 2004 letter, certain questions were raised, and the same were later repeated in a letter to him on June 15, 2004.

The letter re-iterated that he was required to clarify queries with copies of documentary evidence: (a) the source of funds invested offshore; (b) when did he first invest these monies; (c) details of interest earned from when he first invested; (d) copies of bank statements and documentary evidences of any tax deducted at source.

The next day, June 16, Chaudhry wrote asking for an extension of time to provide the information because “old records will need to be looked up to obtain the details”, and that the banks had requested more time be given.

He also disclosed that he had some commitments and therefore asked if he could be given until August 15, 2004 to furnish the details. FIRCA granted him the requested extension. On August 14, a Suva chartered accountancy firm wrote to FIRCA, notifying it that Chaudhry had appointed the firm to act as his tax agent. The firm asked for further extension till September 15, 2004, which was granted.

On September 3, 2004, representatives from the accountancy firm visited FIRCA and wanted to know the information that was needed by the tax organisation.

They were referred to the letter of June 16, and informed that FIRCA was after the most important detail, and that was “the source of the income”.

The accountancy firm stated that the information would be submitted by September 15, 2004.

But on September 13, it again wrote to FIRCA asking for further extension until October 15, prompting FIRCA to warn the firm that no further extension would be granted. However, considering that the firm was still awaiting confirmations from Chaudhry, it agreed to the extension but stressed that, “Please be advised that information gathered and “on hand” by your client should be submitted by that date”.

On 4 October, 2004 the accountancy firm wrote to FIRCA enclosing details of the income earned by Chaudhry for the periods based on the documents provided by the banks together with summary of income and withholding taxes deducted at source including: (a) dividend income from Perpetual Investments, Australia; (b) interest income from ANZ, New Zealand: (c) income received from Commonwealth Balanced Fund: (d) interest income from Commonwealth Bank, Australia; (e) income from Colonial First State Investments Limited.

On behalf of Chaudhry, they stated that, “We advise that above income was not included in the tax returns as these contributions and income there from were sourced and earned overseas and the relevant withholding taxes on the income are deducted at source”.

The capital contributions being the deposits in the bank account in the form of donations, they argued, were received from non-residents and attached were the relevant confirmations – Harbhajan Lal’s letter to Chaudhry about the transfer of funds.

On October 5, 2004, FIRCA officials met with one of the accountants and according to FIRCA’s office memo they identified details of bank accounts, confirmation of the letter from Harbhajan Lal that the money was raised in India for Chaudhry, and the A$500,000 that was transacted through the Indian Consulate-General in Sydney. One FIRCA officer observed on the office memo: “Transmitted to Australia – How?” and regarding Harbhajan Lal’s letter: “More substantive evidence to support the lttr.”

On October 22, 2004, FIRCA wrote to the accountancy firm regarding the October 5 meeting and for the submission of information the firm had “on hand” at the meeting. FIRCA informed them that they (FIRCA) had examined the documents and would amend the income tax returns for the respective years. However, they would not allow the tax credits due to lack of documentary evidence. FIRCA also emphasised that despite it amending the returns, the tax organisation would still pursue the “source of the funds” issue. “The document submitted explaining the source of the funds is not sufficient enough for our purposes,” it stressed.

It, therefore, requested the chartered accountancy firm to forward documentary evidences: (a) details of remittances from India to Australia; (b) details of withholding tax deducted; (c) as requested in the letter of 15 June 2004, the copies of bank statements. A copy of the letter was also forwarded to Chaudhry.

On November 10, 2004, he paid $86,069.02 in outstanding income tax for 2000. On November 22, 2004, one of the partners in the accountancy firm admitted the payment by the Indian Consulate General of $514,148.50 into Chaudhry’s cash management call account in the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. He also requested FIRCA to make the necessary amendments for the years 2000 to 2003 and the statement of tax account to include credits for the non-resident withholding tax amounting to $22,858.03.

It is instructive to recall that FIRCA and Chaudhry had repeatedly taken shelter behind the confidentiality clause in Section 4 of the Tax Act but as I have argued, the Act does not give the taxpayer the luxury and freedom to hide millions from the nation. I wonder what conclusion we would have drawn from the team’s findings and Chaudhry’s denials if I had not come into possession of his tax file, which also contains details of his New Zealand funds.

On 26 September 2000, Chaudhry had opened an account with ANZ bank in NZ, three months after he was released by George Speight from Parliament.

On 1 June 2004, a month after FIRCA began closing in on him, he wrote to the bank requesting interest earned on his account number 981000000116059.

On 16 July, the ANZ bank wrote to him detailing interest he received on the above account between 26 March 2001 and 26 September 2003. Chaudhry received interest income of $NZ23,274.47 or $F24,575.76. The exact amount of funds Chaudhry had in the bank there is not known, but according to forensic accountants, working backwards from the interest he received it was probably $300,000 to $400,000, raising the question of the original source of the New Zealand funds.

The question that arises is why Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, the Attorney-General, Minister for Justice, Electoral Reform, Public Enterprises and Anti-Corruption, Commerce, Industry and Tourism, has not responded to Chaudhry’s latest denial on Fiji TV, and by extension, to the people of Fiji that no money was received from India? After all, Khaiyum had announced the inquiry team with much fanfare claiming it was being done in the name of good governance, accountability, and transparency.

What has a member of the inquiry team, the local educationist and former Deputy Prime Minister Taufa Vakatale, have to say to Chaudhry’s recent statement on Fiji TV? She might also want to explain why the team concluded that the amount invested by Chaudhry was small?

It is time for Fiji’s lawmaker Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum to confront Chaudhry’s bluff and bluster while the FLP leader is going around the country preaching about the People’s Charter. Chaudhry should be telling the people of Fiji about his millions, including the source of the funds in his New Zealand bank account. And, who is the “Indian Santa Claus” – one Harbhajan Lal of Haryana, whose letter Chaudhry tendered to FIRCA to convince the tax body that the $2million was from India? In fact, he was only able to invest in the thousands after he received the money in three instalments into his secret Sydney bank account.

There is now a need for a Commission of Enquiry into Chaudhry’s mysterious millions because the three-member team was not constituted under the Commissions of Inquiry Act (Cap47) and, therefore, did not hold any public hearings, call any witnesses nor take any written or oral submissions as to facts or law.”

The views expressed are those of Victor Lal and not those of the Fiji Sun. E-mail: vloxford@gmail.com

23 Responses to “Lest we forget Chaudhry’s bank account in New Zealand”

  1. Pusilo Says:

    Ocei mada na kai Viti sa bau laki soli bula tu ma laki dumu i viu tiko vua na luve ni vuaka qo? Su maduwa saraga o Koko….

  2. Dauvavana Says:

    Exactly my sentiments that moment I saw this photo. Oti ga rau veivutu e na taubi ni uca, ya sa qai dina kina na sere ni Gaunadivi “sili waca la” bahahahahaha

  3. painter Says:

    I think we should spare the rank & file of the Rottenfmf unless they have, as an individual, committed an offense under the law i.e assaulted, threatened or God forbid, killed someone. ALL the faults and rots instigated by the RottenFMF to date lies squarely at the feet of the MILITARY COUNCIL headed by the Pig, these are the men who are to take the FALL on behalf of the military force, both individually and collectively. Period.

  4. tuyawa Says:

    Lest we forget indeed. Thank you Fiji Sun and Victor Lal for this piece. We all know that Chaudhry is a master of guises and is spinning his web right under everyone’s noses. Donating money to any of Chaudhry’s causes is like opening up a sweet shop for a two year old. The monies that he received fom India was supposedly for his resettlement in Australia. Why has he not migrated? He has obviously put that money into investments or has sent it in other forms than cash to Fiji. Who knows. Everyone has asked the question, if he did receive the donations why did he not fulfill its purpose? How can he blatantly state on TV that he did not receive any money, does that mean that the Indian Consulate in Sydney deposited money into an account with the same name or that the account in West Ryde did not exist? Has he invested that money for the benefit of those that donated? Should a govt representative be involved in such actions? Aiyaz will cringe at the thought of calling Chaudhry’s bluff because it was under his intiative that the three member team was set up including the Australian lawyer who by the way was familiar with Aiyaz before the enquiry began. The lawyer concerned was never truly independent and lacked objectivity.

  5. voreqe Says:

    Dauvanavana soli o chaudary..

  6. kaiveicoco Says:

    Since Chaudhary is forever denying that he received money from India perhaps its time some creative journalism is needed.the following questions should be directed to him
    1.Did you physically receive money from India?The reason he may be saying no to previous questions is that he never received the money physically but was deposited to his bank account which leads to question no 2
    2.You are saying that you never received the money physically but did your bank account says that so many millions were deposited there over a period of a few months in those years 2000 to 2004? Isn’t that saying that you have received money from India?
    3.Are you telling us that its your family who has received the money from India through your bank account and NOT Mahendra Chaudhary?
    4.You are telling us that the money was meant for you and your family to resettle in Australia, why in fact you never migrated?
    5.Don’t you feel sick and guilty that the only reason you are now talking loud mouth and be arrogant and cheeky ( including your son ) because you have had that kind of money ?
    Some journalists try these questions mada and more and we see his Bollywodd and bociwood side of acting come to the fore.!!
    Sa dri yani SV?
    ke sega mai meu taro mada since I am a part time journalist !!

  7. Cama Says:

    He is a liar and should be investigated thoroughly but untill we have a Genuine Government.

    I believe that this is just the tip of an ice berg and could be this is one of the reason for the coup.

    The next one is the investigation in to the murder of CRW soldiers in the mutiny and the surcharge for busting the FMF budget

  8. Peace Pipe Says:

    I wonder if the donors from Haryana know that their money is being kept for personal use and not for what is was intended for. Can someone contact those guys over there and advise them. Or was the money given for chodos own discretional use unconditionally. Being a master liar he probably conned them with some concocted but believeable tale.

  9. policeconstable Says:

    Me thinks the money came from the Indian government, which was intended for the poor Indo-Fijians but Chodo kept it in his account. The Indian Santa Claus – Harbhajan – is just a cover – remember Chodo collected money in North America and kept it in his account, London, and now New Zealand – Can those loud mouth members of the Coalition for Democracy in NZ tell us if they donated money to Chodo – how could this man just walk into NZ and open a bank account, which by 2004 swelled to the tune of 400,000 dollars – nearly half a million dollars in Fijian money!!!!!! Aiyaz – GET UP FROM YOUR ARSE – and do something, if u want to be taken seriously

  10. ex Fiji Tourist Says:

    Isn’t it great to hear that bananasinpyjamas has admitted that his junta is a total failure; in short. they couldn’t arrange a root in a brothel.

    “””He also took the opportunity to express his dismay at the low level of productivity, morale and motivation in government.
    The interim PM then called for strong and effective leadership not only at political level but other levels as well.””””

    If the fool wants strong leadership for Fiji, get out of the way and let an elected government repair the mess that he and his jaundiced junta have made.

  11. ex Fiji Tourist Says:

    This jaundiced junta is like Don Quixote tilting at windmills; all bluff and no substance.

    I wonder which FLP person was paid to turn up at the big inquiry?

    “”””The taskforce team reviewing the operations of Air Pacific heard only one public submission yesterday.
    It’s not known if the team will hear other submissions”””

    I wonder if this team will recommend drastic measures against the airline because hairyarse didn’t get a chocolate biscuit last time he flew with them?

  12. sprite Says:

    hear hear EFT!

    the lone submission to the inquiry was so important that Nailatikau went to great pains to tell Fiji about that single submission. First question is: what is nailatikau, khaiyums qualifications to judge a successful airline like air pac which just made millions and continues to expand?

    By the way, love how Adi Ema, Mrs. Susana Tuisawau and Mrs. Veitayaki are slaying the charter on tv! emphasising how we don’t need to legitimise the coup by supporting the charter. Not only that, Adi Ema characterises the rfmf/military police presence on the charter teams as STATE TERRORISM!! Yaga na dina eke! 8)8)8) Kua ni saini taka na charter, kua ni vakanuinui ki na bilo cicila!

    news today that the western division charter awareness team is so proud that 95% of the forms were returned after the hour long presentations in the various villages. Question: how many people in the village, what % attended the consultation, how long did they have to read the charter documents, what is the literacy rate in the village, were the rfmf and police present, who witnessed the signatures. Just aiming for and hitting some kind of quota demanded by John Samy doesn’t cut it folks!

  13. policeconstable Says:

    If the exposure of the funds in Australia was a conspiracy, what has Chodo to say about the NZ dosh..remember his reponse on being “CLEARED” of tax evasion – Chodo speak:

    “I have always maintained that the initial Victor Lal articles (published in the Fiji Sun) were motivated by spite, malice and outsized ego. The articles were the product of a conspiracy hatched between Lal and certain media people here, including the departed publisher of the Fiji Sun, to not only defame me and have me removed from office but also to divide and weaken the interim Government. There was clearly a conspiracy by elements in the media to collude and connive with certain individuals and politicians to discredit, malign and defame me.”

  14. privatecitizen Says:

    Now the Kiwis are saying Chodo cant enter NZ – to enjoy his millions there:
    Travel ban on ex-ministers remain
    Thursday, September 04, 2008

    Taken from / By: Former Finance Minister remains on the travel ban list to NZ.
    Fiji’s former interim finance minister, Mahendra Chaudhry remains banned from traveling to New Zealand despite quitting his job last month.

    The same is true of Lekh Ram Vayeshnoi and Tom Ricketts, both of whom also resigned from the interim government.

    New Zealand ministry of foreign affairs official, Dave Courtney, said resignation or dismissal from office does not result into automatic removal of New Zealand’s travel sanctions and they remain banned.

    Australia is also upholding its travel ban on the ex-interim ministers in question.

    Both Nations have banned the travel of Interim Ministers, members of their families, members of the military and so on, whether they agreed with the interim regime or not, this persecution of the families and relatives of those involved with the government in the name of democracy.

  15. newsfiji Says:

    Painter i must agree with Pusilo on this one.

    Anyone and everyone who is still in the Fiji Military Force is breaking law.

    Take this man in the picture for example, he is doing a duty that is paid for by the taxpayers to “serve someone who is a lawful Minister”.

    Unfortunately the dickhead in question (Chodo) is not lawful.

    Of all the people that should know these rules like the back of their hand is our law enforcement people, the Navy & the military force.

    So, all these soldiers are in the same boat as their leader, the military council etc.

    Trying to put bread & butter on the table is not an excuse. The land is there – blerry go and plant!

    Like those soldiers receive $50K packages anyway!

  16. kaiveicoco Says:

    Frank talking about low productivity in the civil service ?.Why do soldiers paly touch touch rugby at Albert Park during working hours? !! Who is Frank trying to fool here.There is a chinese saying that ” running water flows down stream ” in other words what happens at the top flow down to the bottom.Now Frank who are you trying to fool ? !! In fact productivity in the civil service is at its lowest right now may be even negative.I just called Kadavu now and they say all the civil servants there in Vunisea ,including the sole doctor at the hospital are busy engaging with the charter teams.

  17. LUVfiji Says:

    I find those that take up the Finance portfolio somehow or rather, always seem to finish from there a very, very rich man.

    We have witnessed that with previous ministers such as Stinson, Walker, hmmm.. Kubuabola, and now Chodo$$. Or is it the other way round. Only the smart and rich are allocated that ministry?

  18. Frida Says:

    Kaiveicoco – what is the doctor’s role in the charter team? he should remeber his oath and ensure that it is upheld. This is the real problem with us Fijians – we are not standing up straight and strong on what we believe in. We are just going with the flow most of the time and when it comes to protecting our land because that should be the next thing we protect after GOD. The mottos – Noqu kalou, Noqu Vanua. It makes me sick when i hear that supposedly smart people such as the doctor in Vunisea is forgetting why he was there in the first place.

  19. Adi Kaila Says:

    LUVFIJI

    You’re quite right about Stinson – didn’t he milk it dry – well the rotund arsehole was paid back in spades – his daughter Jeanette suffered & died from cancer and his son Ian was a wife basher who eventually went bonkers & also died a horrible death. It’s not a nice thing but the universe has ways of making people pay for their sinfuness.

    They weren’t smart at all they’re just lowdown thieves – ALL OF THEM! It is well known that they always leave that particular portfolio much more prosperous than when they started.

    As piggy & his ig coupsters make hay while the sun shines they continually blame everyone else for the disgraceful state of the Nation – Have they forgotten that they sacked the very people who are experienced and qualified to run a Legal Government.

    So while people are ill and need medical treatment the resident doctor in Vunisea is promoting the illegal charter? Well there you go that’s a perfect example of a PS not doing what he is supposed to and paid to be doing. I can’t say much for the ig coupsters in CEO, managerial and Board positions their sorry efforts are less than dismal. Empty drums make more sound.

  20. painter Says:

    Hi newsfiji, I appreciate yr views.

    I think the abolishment or downsizing of the Rottefmf is an issue which needs more and urgent public debate. I am so out of my depth when it comes to the military but my little understanding of the institution, with a culture of its own, is that the rank and file are systematically broken down and conditioned to follow orders without question. Soldiers are not trained to partake in civilian life (and deal with ordinary men, women and children) but are trained and indoctrinated to be warriors in a war-zones where everything is centred around killing and other forms of violence, and where getting paralyzed with moral dilemmas could cost them their lives.

    Question is, does Fiji need this?? Evidently, the negative repercussions of keeping a military force are too great for our small nation.

  21. Adi Kaila Says:

    Hi Painter – I have never understood why Fiji needs an army – what for? I’ve stated this a few times here and suggested that if such an institution should exist then it should be the navy – or that the police are trained to not only police the land but also our many Islands and it’s seaways and be given boats etc to assist them with their job.

    After having a jumped up naval idiot pretending to be pm I just don’t have any faith in either the army or the navy anymore – kaput! No let’s rid our Nation of the army and the navy forever – No Vosota. What actual role do they play in the everyday life of Fiji that justifies either of it’s existence. Both institutions drain the economy as we are paying soldiers to spit and polish and have itchy balls from their overstarched uniforms

  22. painter Says:

    I agree Adi K. If Fiji can figure out alternative sources of livelihood for our military fellas (so they can take care for themselves and their families), I’m sure Fiji wud be well on its way to realizing that objective (doing away with a military force altogether).

    Why should our Fijian men go fight other people’s useless, inhumane, stupid, senseless fights around the world all because of their economic greed in wanting more, more and more! If there were options here, we wouldn’t be having our young Fijian men running off to the UK only to get killed one by one.

    Its an act of love for Fiji to figure out, and quickly, an alternative source of income for our men and women in the military. The casualties go beyond the battle fields and war zones. Saying that they should just go back to the villages is definitely not the answer, not if there’s nothing there for them.

  23. Islandrider Says:

    I can tell you 100% that Choudhry travelled the world right after the coup raising money for a campaign to get him back into government. I heard he raised upto $40,000 in Modesto California and that town is small – I can only imagine how much money he raised in the hundreds of cities he travelled to around the world – my estimate would put him in the millions.

    The guy is a fraud and a con artist. Has he even admitted that Ravindra is his brother? What kind of family values does this guy have that he can’t help his little brother when he needs help but he willing to take the thousands of dollars his little brother was giving him when things were good. Greedy bastard – I hope he burns.

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