Fiji AG's Bankruptcy File Goes 'Missing'
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Staff Reporters: August 26, 2001 Wansolwara Online (USP)
SUVA (Pasifik Nius): Caretaker Attorney-General Alipate Qetaki is embroiled in a controversy over missing files for bankruptcy proceedings against him in Fiji's High Court, the Sun newspaper reported today.
The missing file means that the Fiji Development Bank cannot proceed with bankruptcy proceedings against Qetaki for debts, which six years ago stood at more than $38,000, according to the paper.
A front page report said that by December 1999, the accumulation of interest had pushed the debt to more than $51,000.
Documents leaked to the Sun revealed latest correspondence on the unsettled debt continued until April this year - when the FDB reduced its claim to $19,500.
However, Qetaki wrote to the Official Receiver on March 1, 1999, saying that he agreed to pay just half of the debt.
If this offer was accepted, he would "request FNPF [Fiji National Provident Fund] for partial withdrawal of his savings" to settle the unpaid loan.
However, the Sun reported that inquiries with the PNPF revealed that withdrawals were not given to members who owed money.
Qetaki confirmed he owed money to the bank but said he was not aware of the missing files.
"I don't know anything about that since I do not administer those files," he told the newspaper.
"I've got a different responsibility."
He also rejected any claim that both the FDB and the Official Receiver's office were giving him special treatment over his mounting debts.
Meanwhile, newspaper reports said Chief Justice Sir Timoci Tuivaga said a High Court ruling on Friday to suspend an "illegal" 10 percent value added tax (VAT) on essential food items imposed by the caretaker regime was aimed at embarrassing the interim regime.
The Fiji Times reported that since the case was completed about two to three weeks ago, Justice Anthony Gates should have given his judgement well before polling began yesterday.
"It seems he is trying to embarrass the interim government with the timing of his judgement. he should have decided on the matter long before," he said.
Caretaker Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase described the High Court ruling as a conspiracy.
"Obviously the timing was certainly not in our favour and I believe this was preplanned," he told the Fiji Times.
"It was timed in such a way that the Fiji Labour Party might gain something out of it - but that's done and we cannot undo it."
Justice Gates said he was busy with another trial which delayed his writing up of the judgement.
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