No idea about leaked report: Witness

July 18, 2023 12:53 pm

Suspended Police Commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho (left), Voreqe Bainimarama.

The first prosecution witness in the case against former Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and suspended Police Commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho testified that she was not aware that the report prepared by University of the South Pacific’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia had leaked on social media.

USP Director Assurance and Compliance Dulari Doras Traill continued giving evidence as the trial against Bainimarama and Qiliho continued in the Suva Magistrates Court on its second day.

Bainimarama is charged with a count of attempting to pervert the course of justice while Qiliho is charged with a count of abuse of office.

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The charges stem from a complaint filed by the university in July 2019, pertaining to the conduct of former staff members.

During cross-examination by the defence counsel, Traill said she was made aware of the leaked report after the Executive Council Meeting.

When questioned by defence counsel, Devanesh Sharma, she said that all the copies of Professor Ahluwalia’s report were with her office.

The first prosecution witness also testified that Professor Ahluwalia had his own team who helped him put the report together.

The defence counsel also questioned Traill about the Executive Committee meeting that took place on 17th of April 2019 and the resolution for the report to be kept confidential.

She says she was given the report on 6th March and was verbally instructed to conduct investigations, validate the allegations made in the paper and get back to the Executive Committee in April.

Traill says they started their preliminary enquiries, however, she says they did not prepare a report for the Executive Committee and verbal discretion was given to her to report the criminal element on the 17th of April she reported the matter to FICAC, before the Executive Council meeting.

The defence counsel questioned her whether she had taken statements from the people whose names were mentioned in the report to which she said that her team was facing difficulties in gathering evidence.

She also said that she withheld the reports and gave a verbal report to the FICAC officers and continued with her internal investigation while FICAC was to carry out an investigation on the criminal element.

When questioned on whether she received any response from FICAC, Traill replied that there was an official letter from FICAC to USP Council on various allegations of abuse of office however she did not receive any direct response from them.

This is when the defence counsel highlighted in Court that the official letter by FICAC had stated that the allegations were based on the report by Professor Ahluwalia.

However, Trail says she gave a verbal report on the cases to FICAC, in which she had stated that the monies allegedly paid to people who were not entitled to it.

She agreed that FICAC made the decision that allegations were of administrative nature.

As the cross-examination continued, the defence counsel questioned her whether she was aware that the report by Professor Ahluwalia was leaked in May 2019 and allegations that FICAC had leaked the report.

She says she became aware of it later.

Traill also said that after this an independent body – New Zealand-based accounting firm, BDO Auckland was involved to conduct their investigation into the allegations by Professor Ahluwalia.

She also testified the report by FICAC and BDO was considered by the Executive Committee during the meeting in August.

When questioned, the witness stated that the council did not go to FICAC to reconsider their decision otherwise it would have come to her office.

She says the disciplinary issue was put on hold as the BDO conducted its investigation, however, after the investigation they continued business as usual.

The defence counsel also highlighted that Secretary General of the USP Staff Union had lodged the complaint to police on 8th July 2019 and questioned whether she was aware that the report was leaked.

She says she came to know about it after the Council Meeting.

The trial will resume tomorrow with a second prosecution witness to take the stand.

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