Lawyer Filimoni Vosarogo [left] with Ratu Suliano Matanitobua
Lawyer Filimoni Vosarogo says the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption has failed to prove its claims against SODELPA MP, Ratu Suliano Matanitobua.
The MP is charged with one count of giving false information to a public servant and one count of obtaining a financial advantage.
He allegedly falsely stated that his permanent place of residence was Namosi Village, in Namosi.
Ratu Suliano then allegedly obtained over $38,300 between August 2019 and April 2020.
In his closing submissions today, Vosarogo says that FICAC did not prove that on November 26 2018, Ratu Suliano had the necessary criminal mind, which was necessary to complete the prohibited conduct of giving false information.
Vosarogo said based on the statutory witnesses alone, it cannot be conclusive that his client was living in Statham Street, Suva at the most times.
He said Ratu Suliano had his addressees in the statutory organizations reflecting Veivatuloa village in Namosi as permanent residence.
The counsel said in the context of events according to the evidence, the MP was at Bula Tale in Namosi village during and after the election in 2018.
Vosarogo said that defence have submitted that by definition of a statutory declaration, because it is called a Member of Parliament Statutory declaration form, it lacks form and most importantly, the jurat is non-compliant when Section 3 of the Statutory Declaration Act 1970 states that it must be in the form provided in the schedule.
He says therefore, the genesis of this entire case is flawed.
Vosarogo says the Parliament statutory form is a poorly drafted piece of document intended by its drafters to bind MP’s legally but it lacked the essentials of being a statutory declaration compliant with the law.
The counsel said that no one should be held responsible for this when the responsibility of ensuring public funds is spent correctly rests with the Parliament of Fiji staff and not MP’s.
FICAC Commissioner Rashmi Aslam said the fact was that Ratu Suliano lied about his permanent residential address.
He says the question is why he stated Namosi village as his permanent address if he was residing in Veivatuloa village in Namosi.
Aslam said MP’s could only claim for the travelling and meal allowances if they were travelling outside of the 30 kilometers radius and Veivatuloa is within the 30km radius.
The prosecutor says there is equality before the law and Ratu Suliano should not be treated differently from other ordinary citizens.
Aslam adds that the prosecution and defence witnesses in this case had told court that the MP was not residing in Veivatuloa from year 2018 to 2020.
The hearing continues at the Anti-Corruption Court in Suva this afternoon.