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Mavana Investments Limited purchased shares with the Fijian Holdings Limited (FHL) in order to benefit the villagers in Mavana, Vanua Balavu and lessen their financial burdens, the High Court in Suva heard this morning.
This was revealed by Defence third witness Naulumatua Josateki Koroi who was a shareholder at Mavana Investments Limited and works as a farmer.
Former director of Fijian Holdings Limited (FHL) Laisenia Qarase is charged with six counts of abuse of office and three counts of discharge of duty with respect to a property in which he has a private interest.
During her questioning Qarase’s lawyer Tupou Draunidalo asked Koroi to inform the court on the types of burden he was referring to and if he had recalled a meeting back in 1991 where Qarase was present and the reasons explained to the villages of purchasing shares with FHL.
Koroi said he had recalled a meeting in 1991 when he was still 27-years old where Qarase was present and the reasons given to them were very good as they were always looking for ways to fundraise money for their village and investment is a way they would be able to lessen their financial burden.
Koroi told the court they usually face difficulties in paying their bills and giving money away freely was exhausting their individual savings but investments at FHL profited most of them as it brought in income and helped them in their fundraising.
Draunidalo then asked Koroi if he had known any directors and if any of the directors were being paid for their services.
Koroi said Qarase was one of the directors but he knew that none of the directors were being paid for the services they provided.
Koroi was then asked by Draunidalo to explain if the fundraising were being held in the village or by the Mavana people living in Suva.
Koroi said the fundraising were being held by everyone who has links to Mavana including those in overseas.
Draunidalo then asked Koroi to explain to court if he had any relationship with Qarase and how much income he received annually.
Koroi said he was related to Qarase from his paternal side which they share the same grandfather but it was three generations ago while in his maternal side they share the same grandmother five generations ago.
Koroi told the court he receives $4000 to $5000 annually as a farmer.
In cross-examining Koroi FICAC lawyer Michael Blanchflower asked Koroi how a farmer like him understood accounting statements and how did he know that directors of Mavana Investments Limited were not receiving payments for their services.
Koroi told the court that he knew that directors were not receiving payments because it was not shown in the financial statements.
The court then heard that Koroi was approached by Qarase and his lawyers two days ago to give evidence on behalf of Qarase and they spoke about Mavana Investments Limited.
Blanchflower then asked Koroi to inform the court how the villages got the money to invest in FHL after he said that it was difficult for villages to be giving money away freely.
Koroi then told the court the villages fundraised for the money to purchase shares at FHL and some of the funds were from the villages free-will to give.
Blanchflower then asked if Koroi knew how much shares the village bought, how much the cost of the shares was and if they raised the money on their own.
Koroi said Mavana Investments Limited bought 200,000 shares at a cost of $200,000 but they were only able to raise 20 per cent of that money and the balance was given by a loan they acquired at the Fiji Development Bank (FDB).
Blanchflower then asked Koroi if he knew that Qarase was the managing director at FDB at that time and if Qarase had told them that he would arrange for a loan to be given to them.
Koroi’s reply was yes.
Blanchflower then asked Koroi if any company invested Mavana Investments Limited to buy shares.
Koroi said no company invested in Mavana Investments Limited.
The court then heard that Q-Ten Investments Limited had shares with Mavana Investments Limited.
In re-examining their witness Draunidalo asked Koroi if they had to provide an acquity in order to receive the loan.
Koroi replied yes and said there was no special treatment given to them when they applied for the loan.
It is alleged Qarase between 1992 to 2000 while employed as a director of Fijian Holdings Limited, Financial Advisor of the Fijian Affairs Board and advisor to the Great Council of Chiefs, in abuse of the authority of his office, did arbitrary acts.
He is alleged to have applied in the name of Cicia Plantation Co-op Society Limited, Mavana Investments Limited and a family owned company named Q-Ten Investments Limited for the issuance and allotment of Class A shares in Fijian Holdings Limited.
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