Reader Says Ranjit Singh Wrong on Fiji Holdings Ltd

First, the Comments by 'Corruption Fighter' then Ranjit's Reply and the original article  


Corruption Fighter has left a new comment on your post "Public Sector Reforms: 4. Housing and the 55+ Reti...":

@Croz

In September last year you published an article by Thakur Ranjit Singh entitled 'Questionable Dealings in Fijian Holdings Ltd'. It made allegations against Laisenia Qarase and others in Fiji Holdings Ltd.

You might like to revisit this issue in the light of the recent grab-back of $20 million from the Fijian Affairs Board.

The Thakur Ranjit Singh litany of allegations was circulated widely before and immediately after the 2006 military takeover and was influential in leading some Fijians to believe that a clean-up was necessary.

TRS claimed that individual Fijians or Fijian owned-companies could buy Class A shares with the assistance of finance obtained through FDB loans. He did not explain what was wrong with such loans. Were the loans made with inadequate security? Was a concessional interest rate given for the loans? He did not show that there had been defaults on loans, as there were with the notorious NBF loans. Clearly the income earned and the growth in value of the Class A FHL shares meant that the borrowers should be in a position to repay the loans. The allegation of FDB loans was no more than a smear.

Another of his allegations was that "Fijian Provinces were betrayed" because the individual Fijians who had bought Class A shares were able to control FHL. The Class B shares held by the Provinces and the FAB, TRS asserted, had no voting rights for directors. This was obviously believed by the military cleaners for some time because it took them a year more after their takeover of government powers to realise that their illegal Minister for Fijian Affairs could appoint a majority of directors to the board.

Yet another allegation, and one the hardest to understand, is that the Board members of FHL had FHL shares. TRS said: ""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." Again this is a smear, implying that ownership of shares somehow disqualifies someone from serving on a board of directors. Surely shareholders want directors who have shares in a company, because they have a stake in its prosperity.

Then there's the smear that a loan to set up FHL was converted to a grant. "What taxpayers of Fiji need to know is under whose authority this taxpayers' loan of $20m was converted to a gift for FHL."

This is not true, it's never been true, he should always have known it to be false, but now the evidence is out on the table where he can't deny it.

It was the Fijian Affairs Board that received the grant, not FHL. And FAB used the funds to pay for shares, ie an asset which yielded it $24.75 million in dividends. In the last three years alone, when the FAB has been directly under the control of the military regime, these dividends have totalled $10 million.

Where has this $10 million (along with the other $14 million) gone? Has the FAB sat on the money or have they used it to do the job that government would otherwise have to fund them to do? If they haven't been using it to pay for the normal business of the FAB the FAB should have it in a bank account and the government can take it back.

In short, there was no loan that was turned into a grant to FHL. The loan was turned into EQUITY in a sound and profitable company, an asset held by a government agency. These shares have been a consistent sources of income for the government, including the illegal one in the past three and half years.

So FHL owes the government nothing. It's Thakur Ranjit Singh who owes the builders of FHL an apology. They built a major business which has given Fijians a stake in their economy without taking anything from the taxpayer.

This is in stark contrast to the money that the National Bank of Fiji lent to undeserving Fijians such as the Ganilau family in the name of affirmative action. This left huge debts because the family were intent only on funding a lifestyle they felt they were entitled to.


RESPONSE FROM THAKUR RANJIT SINGH

Following is the excerpt of my article (full article attached below)

“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, NLTB and FAB. 

However the irony and shame is that according to 1992 annual report, 14 Provincial Councils and two Fijian institutions, Native Land Trust Board (NLTB) and Fijian Affairs Board (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!”


Never in my article had I implied anything legally wrong by the people who borrowed to buy Class A shares in FHL under their personal companies. They may not have defaulted on those loans. The intention of the article was NOT to look at the impropriety of getting loans. The article was there to show immorality of the selected elite Fijians, who knew about this loophole, ABUSED THIS PRIVILEGED KNOWLEDGE  to get loans and buy CLASS A shares (which paid double the dividends) and which were reserved for Provinces and NOT for Qarase’s, Weleilakeba’s,, Vitusagavulu’s, Bakani’s or Yabaki’s and etc personal family companies. These so called elite Fijians were there to PROTECT INDIGENOUS INTEREST BUT THEY LINED THEIR OWN POCKETS. While projecting and showing the bogey of Indian takeover, it was the elite Fijians who robbed their own people. That is what Manu Korovulavula wanted to achieve through his Senate motion (which was defeated by the vested interests)

The argument about FAB or FHL is irrelevant, as it is the same group of elites who managed both the organisations, and there was little demarcation. By calling Thakur names and implying I was malicious does not take away the fact that IN FACT IT WAS THE FIJIANS WHO ROBBED THE VERY PEOPLE THEY WERE SUPPOSED TO SAFEGUARD, AND TOOK ADVANTAGE OF THEIR SPECIAL KNOWLEDGE.

 One challenge I had made to Fiji media in general and to The Fiji Times in particular was to go and do an investigative journalism, and find out what portion of the $24.75 m dividend paid out by FHL in fact went to the provinces who were supposed to be the rightful recipients? In fact it is the elite Fijians, who were supposed to be saviours for the Fijian race, pocketed it through their family companies.

I do not owe anybody any apology. The only apology I owe is to common indigenous villagers in the provinces, who were denied the fruits of FHL and for whom FHL was initially set up. Despite my individual effort and writings in the media, I have not been able to deliver them justice. I hope the investigation by FICAC will deliver this to them, in time to come. I certainly hope what they lost through a democratic government may be delivered by the Military government.

Regards

Thakur Ranjit Singh



How Fijian Provinces were betrayed and looted by the Fijian Initiative

Thakur Ranjit Singh, Auckland, New Zealand

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 the government and took charge, his reasoning, among others, was to save the Fijian race from unscrupulous and wanting leadership. My purpose here is to substantiate this through reporting on Senate proceedings of some 14 years 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.

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, NLTB and FAB.

However the irony and shame is that according to 1992 annual report, 14 Provincial Councils and two Fijian institutions, Native Land Trust Board (NLTB) and Fijian Affairs Board (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.

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 currently Fiji’s High Commissioner to USA, appointed by deposed PM Qarase. Taoi is President of Indigenous Fijian Business Council. Previously Rodney Acraman also used to own shares which have since been bought by the remaining two shareholders.

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 current CEO of NLTB. The purchase of shares was financed by NBF

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, 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 is the 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.

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.

What the Fijian race needs to ponder is that Qarase regime has been projecting Indo Fijians as the common enemy of the indigenous race. 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 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 need no enemies at all. There is a saying that enemies 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 past President Ratu Iloilo and Adi Litia Cakobau need to answer to the Fijian race why this call for investigation was wiped under the carpet. Other Great Council of Chiefs nominees in that Senate also need to answer to their people.

As part of Commander’s cleanup, the whole saga at FHL needs to be reopened and relooked and the $20m of taxpayer funds should be repaid to the nation, and specifically reserved for rural development of each of the 14 Provinces and fat cats Fijians need to be trimmed down to size, so that the whole nation can be spared from ungrateful sons who projected others as enemies of the indigenous race.

And those racist politicians and their hangers-on 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!


(About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh is a human rights activist, former Publisher of Daily Post, and an advocate of good governance, based in Auckland, New Zealand)

Comments

Corruption Fighter said…
@Thakur Ranjit Singh

Thank you for your response. You seem reluctant to admit some facts that are now very clear.

First, you have not acknowledged the fact that the majority of directors in FHL board are appointed by Government because of the equity held by the Fijian Affairs Board (and since 2005 the Fijian Trust Fund). It was not and never has been controlled by the Class A shareholders. Could you please just admit this or explain who is on the board and how were they appointed?

You could also acknowledge that the directors appointed to run FHL by the IG subsequently proved their incompetence beyond all doubt with the crazy attempt to buy BP Southwest Pacific. The price the Qoro-run FHL wanted to pay for BP was far in excess of its value, as its subsequent sale price proved.

You asked the question: ""what portion of the $24.75 million dividend paid out by FHL in fact went to the provinces who were supposed to be the rightful recipients?" The answer is simple: all of it. It went to the FAB, which funds Provincial services and, since 2005, the Fijian Trust Fund, which funds matters of cultural importance to Fijians. Both of these bodies have been under the control of the IG since end 2006 and they have received $10 million since then. Do you now understand the $24.75 million went to Class B shareholders? It did not go to what you call "'the elite Fijians", who received their own dividends for the Class A shares they own.

You made some reference to "calling Thakur names". Could you pls tell me what name I called you? All I said was that you should have known "there was no loan that was turned into a grant to FHL". This was a smear of FHL. The loan was to FAB and purchased the equity which gave Government control of FHL, which is presumably what you believed was appropriate.
CICERO said…
A Royal Commission will eventually have to sit on this saga of greed and exploitation of the ignorant by Fat Cats who propelled their own selfish interests from positions of power. They denied development to ordinary i-taukei on the basis that they were elected to do so. But....in fact they were not and they never did declare their conflicts of interest in this matter. When are they going to be compelled to do so? Because the Day of Reckoning beckons and the clamour for one will not die away: only grow more insistent. The monies used were still taxpayers' money and that must be accounted for to the taxpayers of Fiji: no statute of limitations on this, we must take due note.
Walker Texas Ranger said…
@ Corruption Fighter

It is not possible to determine what type of corruption fighter this is.? However: Nit Picker might be more appropriate? There is importance and relevance in picking nits for the purpose of forensic accounting evidence, otherwise the fundamental issue of gross Conflicts of Interest indulged in by politicians paid from public money (yes, not their money but taxpayers' funds and we are all taxpayers) was overlooked by the so-termed 'Corruption Fighters'. Why are you so late with your concern? Because your own commercial or professional interests may have been threatened by an earlier disinclination to speak out? One of your number has now been publicly reprimanded by the Head of the Legal Services Commission and fined $15,000 on Friday. This person had to be told to step down pending his hearing. Very revealing indeed. Only a military mind set will get us out of this....and what is more, you know so. The lack of moral and mental discipline inherent in failures to give evidence, failures to follow through with complaints about renegade police officers, failures to stand up basically for what is right that mark so many of us now. Impatience and determination against corruption are required. Get yourself into Court: avoid the rotten lawyers and accountants who are in the middle of our mess. Turf them all out! And....fire the rotten Police Officers whose motto "Salus Populi" is little understood by many of them. The good, honest officers must assist in ridding us of them. The Public will be forever in their debt.
Corruption Fighter said…
@Walker Texas Ranger

I gather from your comment that "Only a military mind set will get us out of this" that you are a military man. That explains a lot.

I also take it from your comment that you think my demolition of the substance of the case argued by Thakur Ranjit Singh means that I must be a lawyer who's made a guilty man look innocent.

I really don't know how to state any more clearly but I repeat:

There was no loan or grant to FHL.

The grant to FAB gave FAB $20 million dollars worth of shares that earned FAB $24.75 million in dividends. And $10 million of that was in the three plus years since the takeover.

FHL paid dividends to FAB for the Class B shares it owned.

This is not clever argument; it's a simple recounting of facts.

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