THE Fiji military regime’s arrest of former PM Mahendra Chaudhry last week struck Australian journalist Russell Hunter as perverse – and telling.

Mr Hunter, when editor-in-chief of the Fiji Sun, was seized from his home in Suva and expelled from Fiji two years ago while Mr Chaudhry was the regime’s finance minister.

He was targeted for publishing stories based on what appears to be the material over which Mr Chaudhry has now been charged.

The big difference is that since then Mr Chaudhry has quit the government run by Commodore Frank Bainimarama, whom he has accused of being “autocratic and dictatorial”.

Mr Hunter, now the Apia-based development editor of the Samoa Observer, said yesterday: “Justice moves in mysterious ways in Frank’s Fiji.”

Mr Chaudhry was charged last Friday with money laundering, tax evasion and failing to declare foreign currency. Now the Labour Party leader, in a country in which political parties are unable to function normally, he was finance minister in the Labour administration that was pushed from power in Fiji’s first military coup in May 1987.

Mr Hunter said: “At the time a close intimate and favourite of the dictator, Mr Chaudhry nevertheless had no lack of political enemies, and it was they who began surreptitiously circulating documents that claimed Frank’s financial messiah was somewhat less than pure.”

These documents ended up, in August 2007, in the hands of Mr Hunter and of London-based former Fiji journalist Victor Lal.

But, Mr Hunter said, “we need to go back a little further to understand this bizarre story.

“When he and his cabinet hostages were released by a prison-bound George Speight (10 years ago), Mr Chaudhry embarked on a worldwide tour spreading the word about the legitimacy of his cause as an elected prime minister and raising funds for the ‘poor Indians’ suffering in Fiji as a result of Speight’s abortive coup.

“And indeed there were many of these. It’s not quite clear exactly how much was raised, as Mr Chaudhry received the money, much of it in cash, himself.”

Mr Lal began a series of articles that appeared in the Fiji Sun. But for legal reasons, Mr Hunter said, the paper was not at that stage ready to identify Mr Chaudhry as the “minister with overseas millions”. Mr Hunter said: “As Lal’s inquiries continued, the story took weird twists and turns.

“I received a visit late one night in January 2008 from a person I knew only slightly. This person handed me a plain brown envelope, and after a few pleasantries, left. The envelope contained the full tax records of Mahendra Chaudhry, revealing that the authorities knew about” his fund-raising efforts, but had not pursued him over the issue.

“The fact Mr Chaudhry was at that time the minister responsible for the taxation authority may or may not have been relevant,” Mr Hunter said.

“The first thing I needed to do was to get this explosive collection of documents out of the country before somebody came looking for them. Someone eventually did.

“We assumed that anything addressed to Lal from Fiji would be opened, and so the air freight package was addressed to a Father Murphy who lived near to Lal’s then residence in Oxford.

“These became known by the codename ‘the Murphy papers’ in emails between Lal and myself, as we suspected – rightly as it turned out – that our emails were being read.

“Lal received the Murphy papers and immediately knew, as I did, that here was the final piece of the jigsaw. We published in full across five pages on Sunday, February 24, 2008, and I was abducted from my home by soldiers the next day, held overnight and put on a flight to Sydney the next morning. I am still prohibited from entering Fiji.”

The regime claimed Mr Hunter was a threat to national security. The Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum, then announced Mr Chaudhry had done nothing illegal, wrong or even improper.

“Now, however, things are dramatically different. Mr Chaudhry’s unblemished character is under siege.

“How does a completely innocent man two years ago become an accused felon today — when no new information has been brought to light?

“In Frank’s Fiji, that’s not so difficult. Anybody previously proved innocent can quickly find themselves assumed guilty by the simple means of speaking out against the illegal regime.”

4 Responses to “INNOCENT ONE DAY GUILTY THE NEXT …… fisistan aaaah”

  1. Tuks Says:

    Sv,the need to clear “their Chaudhry”‘s name in their court from the allegation of corruption and tax evasions is critical to the regime’s political future!. You see they have been fooling everybody under the pretense of up holding the rule of Law in this case . The truth is, they know fully well that Chaudhry’s only chance of clearing his name in any court of Law is in Banimamarama’s own Kangaroo Court in Fiji and right now when bainimarama is still in power!. This is the only opportune time for Chaudhry to be cleared by their Court thus safegurading the Regime’s own political strategy from being tarnished in the long term. Chaudhry is very much in control of things here as he knows too much and Bainimarama knows that he can never succed without Chaudhry’s support. That support is fast weakening because of the corruption and tax evasion allegation against their political strategist Chaudhry. They know this and that is why they need to clear his name right now in a Court of Law for the sake of their own future. You watch my word – Chaudhry will be cleared and no conviction will be recorded against him. That will be the Court’s final decision. In fact that must be the way things are already now and arrangements already made with the Judge and Court to that effect. What we are seeing now is just a drama aimed at making us believe their lies. They are well reknown for the lies they make day in and day out. But they must know that they can fool some people sometime but Not all the people all the times…

  2. Nostradamus Says:

    All cases tried under this illegal regime and their illegal (unconstitutional) court will need to be retried when Fiji returns to democracy.
    What is happening now is just a complete waste of time, kangaroo time.

  3. peni Says:

    I’m with Roko and his movements-FLO-lets get in there and start rattling the IG Cage and give them notice that we’re ready to rock and roll if that’s what it takes to free a nation? We need to tell this bully that we don’t want his dictatorship and we certainly don’t want his dumb and stupid face to be making decision for our lives,liberty and pursuit for
    our happiness? Hey Roko if you need an extra-hand I’m here and ready
    to shoot these BASTARDS!!!!!

  4. Jone Vinaka Says:

    A very interesting and shocking piece. He deserves nothing less than a life imprisonment. Io, sa leqa o Robin Hood!!!!!!!!!

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