back to news archives for 18-31 August, 2000
USP Journalism Programme
LAWYER BLASTS POLICE INVESTIGATIONS

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SUVA: A former Fijian police investigator who is now a criminal lawyer
today condemned investigation methods over the National Bank of Fiji
scandal involving more than $220 million.
Naipote Vere, who resigned from Fiji's police force in 1998 in the wake
of a controversy over allegations about Police Commissioner Isikia
Savua, questioned in an interview with the Fiji Sun how the NBF
investigations were carried out into "top level people" in government.
Commissioner Savua has been suspended this week pending an inquiry into
allegations of his involvement in the May insurrection led by failed
businessman George Speight.
In an editorial today, the Fiji Times said Commissioner Savua "may have
acted suspiciously" before and after May 19 but he should not be
condemned by the public before any court found him guilty of any crime.
"Until the inquiry - and court trial if any - Mr Savua is innocent of
any wrongdoing," the paper said.
But in the Fiji Sun "hardtalk" interview, Vere challenged Savua's role
in the NBF investigations.
"Why was Savua personally responsible for all investigations in the NBF
saga when he was not a trained detective and does not know what the law
of evidence is all about, or the procedure that had to be followed in
the investigation?" he asked.
"But I figured he was there to protect some people who were involved.
"The investigations were not carried out to normal procedure.
"There was the former Prime Minister [Sitiveni Rabuka] who was given a
set of questions to answer. That's not the way to go about it in a
criminal investigation...
"Giving a set of questions gives them [people being investigated] lots
of room to play up with the investigation, destroy the evidence, mislead
investigators. That's what happened in the NBF investigation when
everything went wrong."
Vere blamed Savua for a drop in morale in the police force.
"To be a good leader, you don't run away overseas during the height of a
crisis," he said, referring to Savua's attendance at a security
conference in Vanuatu in June.
"Or being absent during the burial of a fellow police officer [shot by
rebels]. I know what a well-motivated police officer is like."
Vere highlighted Savua's links with former coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka's
SVT government.
"I knew that Savua was very close to the SVT as he was selected to be
commissioner by the [Rabuka] government as it was a political
appointment," Vere told the Fiji Sun.
"Here I suspected a likelihood that if the SVT loses the election then
the police would come in handy."
Vere also talked about efforts by the SVT after the election defeat in
May 1999 to enlist Christian Democratic Alliance help in a
destabilisation campaign aimed against the Mahendra Chaudhry government.
"The CDA and SVT headquarters were opposite each other and three days
later, after the new government took office, the SVT rang us. A son of a
prominent businessman in that SVT called us to go across and talk about
civil disobedience and a possibility of a coup, but we refused."
In the editorial today, the Fiji Times said Savua's movements and public
statements "would inevitably have raised some eyebrows".
But the paper cautioned people to substantiate their claims.
"The inquiry provides the opportunity to those who have a genuine
complaint, and, more importantly, evidence of any illegal activities
implicatng him, to produce them for investigation.
"It is totally unfair to blame Mr Savua or any citizen for that matter
for any illegal activity or unethical practice without providing
supporting evidence. One only exposes one to libel by doing so."
Meanwhile, Vere's lawyer has filed a writ alleging defamation against
the government and the Fiji Times over complaints lodged against
Commissioner Savua in 1998 which led to the police chief being
investigated for 19 offences.
An article in the Fiji Times published later in the year alleged that
Vere was insincere and he was forced to resign after 32 years in the
police force.
+++niuswire

Title -- 2933 FIJI: Lawyer blasts police investigations
Date -- 29 August 2000
Byline -- None
Origin -- Pasifik Nius
Source -- Fiji Sun/Fiji Times, 29/8/00
Copyright -- FS/FT
Status -- Unabridged
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