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Tax-evading regime minister freed by courts

Tax-evading regime minister freed by courts

Mon, 26 Feb 2001 14:12:27 +1200


Issue No: 519 26 February 2001

Tax-evading regime minister freed

Assistant Minister for Regional Development and Multi-ethnic Affairs, George Shiu Raj, was this morning freed of tax-related charges by the Chief Magistrate when the prosecutor did not turn up.

Raj was charged with 10 counts of failing to pay tax between 1992-1999. He was charged by the Inland Revenue Department in early 2000 with these offences. Today, inland revenue department prosecutors failed to turn up to court. The Chief Magistrate Salesi Temo dismissed the charges saying that the court could not waste time on prosecutors who failed to turn up to court. Previously at least one bench warrant was issued against Raj for failing to turn up to court. Then through the interference of the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, the case was transferred from Rakiraki to Suva.

Raj is the only ethnic Indian who is supporting Qarase as a member of the Qarase cabinet team. He was appointed an assistant minister in July 2000. Qarase maintained him in the position despite the tax charges against him. Assistant ministers are not entitled by right to sit in cabinet meetings, but keeping Raj enabled the regime to tell the world that ethnic Indians supported the regime. Only recently, Fiji's High Commissioner in London cited Raj as proving that the regime was not racist and that ethnic Indians supported Qarase.

Shiu Raj was elected as a Member of Parliament in 1999 as an independent candidate. Subsequently he joined forces with the SVT in the Parliament often reading speeches drafted by SVT's draftsman Ahmed Ali.

Shiu Raj was the only ethnic Indian other than a few Christian preachers who was allowed to visit the hostages when the government was held hostage in the Parliament Complex. After the visit he gave glowing account of how well the terrorists were treating the hostages.

Shiu Raj reportedly provided food and financial assistance to Speight as a show of his support for the attempted overthrow of the elected government. The government was coming down strongly on tax evaders. An estimated $100m is lost annually through tax evasion in the country.


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