Fiji investigates coup and forest contract link

Ulhas Joglekar ulhasj at
Mon Oct 23 10:13:17 MDT 2000

21 October 2000

Fiji investigates coup and forest contract link
SUVA: Fijian police are investigating whether a May coup was linked to
blackmail attempts by a group of business people, including coup leader
George Speight, to win lucrative mahogany forest harvest contracts.
Assistant police commissioner Jahir Khan said o Friday that 40 Fijian
business people were under investigation into the contracts worth up to $300
He said a report would soon be handed to Fiji's director of public
prosecutions to decide whether charges would be made.
''We have been looking at the people who were involved and the nature of the
contracts that were signed. People being investigated are George Speight,
prominent people, Fijian chiefs, business people and Indo-Fijians,'' Khan
''Some of the contracts were suspended and also there has been reports of a
bribery scandal to secure the contracts,'' he said.
''We have always been looking at the connection with mahogany, but the
priority has been the treason case. Now we are getting a clear picture;
there are several possibilities, including blackmail,'' Khan said.
Speight stormed Fiji's parliament on May 19, taking the country's first
ethnic Indian prime minister Mahendra Chaudhry and most of his multi-racial
cabinet hostage in the name of indigenous Fijians.
Speight is now awaiting trial on treason charges on Nukulau Island off Suva
with about 20 co-conspirators.
Before the coup Speight was involved in attempts to sell harvesting rights
to the world's largest maturing mahogany plantation on Fiji's main island
Viti Levu.
Khan declined to release any other names being investigated. (Reuters)
For reprint rights:Times Syndication Service

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