Fijian Holdings Ltd Scandal: How Fijian Provinces were betrayed and looted by their trusted sons
Thakur Ranjit Singh,
(Initially published August, 2007)
FIJIANS BETRAYED BY THEIR TRUSTED SONS
People of Fiji had been told of corruption and questionable dealings by those who were considered the marshals, saviours and guardians of Fijian race. When Frank Bainimarama sacked Qarase regime and took charge, his reasoning, among others, was to save the I-Taukei (Fijian) race from unscrupulous and wanting leadership within I-Taukei community. My purpose here is to substantiate this through reporting on Senate proceedings of some two decades ago.
When Adi Quini Bavadra was alive she tried her best to reveal the dealings in Fijian Holdings Limited (FHL) but people with power and influence won and this matter never saw the light of day. My lament had been that while Fiji has an abundance of copy journalists and copy feature writers; there is dearth of good, conscientious, bold and sincere investigative journalists. Perhaps somebody like that can pick the hints from here, and perhaps create an FHLgate.
However I will report on what took place in Fiji’s Senate on 18 May, 1993.
SENATE PROCEEDINGS-MAY, 1993
In the Senate sitting of 18 May, 1993 (pages 731 to 748), Senator Manu Korovulavula moved a motion for the Senate to call on Government to carry out an investigation into the method adopted by the Board of the Fijian Holdings Limited to allow limited liability companies to buy shares into the company (FHL) without the knowledge of 14 Provinces. Senator Korovulavula had stated that the motion was brought on a point of principle to reveal less than honest dealings of people in position of power, knowledge and trust.
The intention of the motion was to reveal odd and strange method known to a selected group of shareholders who took advantage of this to borrow funds from the Fiji Development Bank (FDB) or the National Bank of Fiji (NBF) in order to buy shares in FHL.
As example of this a whole Province has only $50,000 Class A shares while a family private company shares add up to $200,000, which is a scam in any language. It is obvious someone somewhere had not been honest and loyal to the Fijian people in not telling them the truth.
FHL was primarily created to be owned by the Provincial Councils, Fijian people and Fijian institutions, NOT the elite limited liability family companies. The Great Council of Chiefs, right from its inception was unanimous to see that FHL was to be owned by 14 Provinces, Native Land Trust Board (NLTB) and Fijian Affairs Board (FAB).
However the irony and shame is that according to 1992 annual report, 14 Provincial Councils and two Fijian institutions, NLTB and FAB hold only 30 % of total shares while the elite Fijians with their family limited liability companies hold 70% of shares. This is a fraud on the common indigenous people who are supposed to be shareholders of FHL through their respective provinces!
People of Fiji need to be made aware of Fijian Initiative. This Fijian advisory body comprised of intellectuals, professionals, businessmen and senior executives in the private and public sector. The aim of this initiative is to pull these resources, convene regular meetings and seminars to enable it to come up with recommendations to develop and assist Fijians to better themselves in all aspects of life, more so in the field of trade and commerce.
Senator Manu Korovulavula reported to Senate that it was interesting to know that some of the senior members of the Fijian Initiative did not consider it appropriate to advise the 14 Provincial Councils that they could borrow three or four times more from FDB, the amount of shares which they already had in FHL.
All this while, these senior Fijian sons took secretive actions to line their own and family’s pockets at the cost of Provincial Councils!
Senator Korovulavula revealed private shareholding of three provinces with which he was familiar. Please note that all figures, amounts and situations reported are as at 1993, and they may have changed now.
In Kadavu Province, he spoke about 3 companies. The first, Kadavu Development Company, which is fully owned by people of Kadavu, owned only $50,000 shares.
|Former Qarase's Cabinet Minister Konisi Yabaki's Family Company owned $100,000 Class A shares when his Province Kadavu owned only half those shares.|
The other, KJY Investment Limited, owned by Qarase’s Cabinet Minister Konisi Yabaki and his family, owned $100,000 shares.
The third, Taoi Investment Limited, owned $200,000 shares. Shareholding in this Company then belonged to Jesoni Vitusagavulu and Ulaiasi Taoi. Vitusagavulu is former staff of FDB, former Air Pacific Executive, former Director of Fiji Trade and Investment Board and former Fiji’s High Commissioner to USA, appointed by deposed PM Qarase. Taoi used to be President of Indigenous Fijian Business Council. Previously Rodney Acraman also used to own shares which have since been bought by the remaining two shareholders.
Jesoni Vitusagavulu, who together with Ulai Taoi, once head of Fijian Indigenous Chamber of Commerce owned four times ($200,000) the shares that their Kadavu province owned ($50,000).
The interesting issue here in that Konisi Yabaki was then the Chairman while Vitusagavulu was Secretary respectively of Kadavu Development Company. They went ahead, used their positions to build their own interests at the cost of Kadavu Province.
The next province is Lomaiviti, which had only $55,100 shares while KB Investment Limited and 5X Investment Limited owned $100,000 each while Vensalisi Investment Limited had $80,000 shares.
KB Investment Limited, with $100, 000 shares is owned by Bakani family. The head of this family Kalivati Bakani is former executive of FDB, former Deputy General Manager of NBF, former Carpenters Executive and former CEO of NLTB. The purchase of shares was financed by NBF
Kalivati Bakani, once former boss of your truly at Carpenters Fiji Limited, owned $100,000 shares compared to $55,100 by his Lomaiviti Province.
5X Investment, with $100,000 shares, is owned by Lote Rabuku, Semesa Matanicake, Delai Sainikinaivalu, Penisoni Gauna and KB Investments. Note that acquisition of these shares was also financed by NBF.
Vensalisi Investment Limited, with $80,000 shares, is owned by Isikeli Mataitoga and family. Isikeli then was Director of Public Prosecutions and is CEO of Foreign Affairs.
Interesting point to note is that in less than two months after registration of 5X Investment, this $1 per Share Company got $75,000 loan from NBF. Additionally, three months after KB Investment Limited was registered, Kalivati Bakani’s wife got $107,000 loan from NBF where her husband was the then Deputy General Manager. Three months after Isikeli Mataitoga’s family company was registered, he obtained $64,000 from FDB which was headed by Qarase.
Now we move to the Province of deposed Prime Minister Qarase, Lau Provincial Council, which had only $50,100 shares. At same time, Stiks Investment Limited had $150,000, Q-Ten Investment Limited had $200,000 and Kepa Investment Limited had $100,000 worth of shares.
Stiks Investment Limited shares of $150,000 are fully owned by Weleilakeba family. Sitiveni Weleilakeba was a former CEO of FHL and one time business partner of democracy activist Laisa Digitaki, together with whom, he tried to run Mobil Walu Bay Service Station which went into receivership and was then acquired by Carpenters Motors. The shares in Stiks had been financed by FDB.
|Sitiveni Weleilakeba, former CEO of Fijian Holdings Limited owned $150,000 shares, almost three times more than his Lau Province.|
Q-Ten Investment Limited held $200,000 shares, which is owned by Laisenia Qarase Family. One property CT 14743, Lot 2 was mortgaged twice to acquire finance for $112,400 and $353,217 respectively. Note that at the time, Laisenia Qarase was the Managing Director of FDB, the lender for share acquisition. At that time, Laisenia Qarase was also the financial advisor to the Fijian Affairs Board, but failed to advise them of this insider information of acquiring shares.
Kepa Investment Limited, with $100,000 shares, was wholly owned by Lakepa family, Satini and Milika, and financed by FDB.
An interesting point is that one of the nine points of Deuba Accord was for government to make $20m interest free LOAN to FHL through Fijian Affairs Board, repayable over 20 years. What taxpayers of Fiji need to know is under whose authority this taxpayers’ loan of $20m was converted to a gift for FHL. Note that board members of FHL, with shares then included Laisenia Qarase, Sitiveni Weleilakeba and Josaia Mar, who has been removed as Chairman of FEA by Commander. Also note that Laisenia Qarase was the interim Prime Minister when this shady and questionable deal took place.
DOES FIJI DESERVE TO BE RULED BY SUCH DECEITFUL I-TAUKEI LEADERS? IS DIVISIVE RACIAL DEMOCRACY NOW OUTDATED IN FIJI? YOU DECIDE
What the Fijian race needs to ponder is that Qarase regime has been projecting Indo- Fijians as the common enemy of the indigenous race, the I-Taukei. Is this really so? Indigenous Fijian people had placed their faith in the hands of these intellectuals, so called professionals and who were supposed to be guiding the I-Taukei (Fijian) race. The FHL was the commercial vehicle through which the wellbeing of Fijian race was intended to be improved. The dependency of the wisdom of Great Council of Chiefs and the elders in the villagers was on the shoulders of the so called Fijian Initiative group. However these very same people tricked their own people while projection Indo-Fijians as villains.
With friends like the Fijian Initiative, the indigenous race needs no enemies at all. There is a saying that enemy who strike from front is miles better than friends who strike on the back. Fijian Provinces have been dealt commercially fatal blows on their backs by their trusted sons.
Perhaps those who are crying for Qarase regime to come back need to consider whether he is worthy of this honour. The Commander is right in trying to save the indigenous race from the enemy within, as there is no fear from those outside.
Those who were Senators in 1993, and were present in Senate, [including late past President Ratu Iloilo and] like Adi Litia Cakobau need to answer to the Fijian race why this call for investigation was swept under the carpet. Other Great Council of Chiefs nominees in that Senate also need to answer to their people.
And those racist politicians, their hangers-on and democracy refugee advocates in Australia and USA, who are now shedding crocodile tears for democracy (on Facebook), and who projected and put Indo- Fijians as red herrings should be made to answer to the indigenous race of this betrayal and who their real enemies are!