Pacific Media Watch

7 March 2013

FIJI: Times directors charged with alleged Media Decree breaches

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Mahendra (Mac) Patel, longtime head of the Motibhai Group, owner of the Fiji Times ... accused in absentia. Image: Fiji Sun

Jyoti Pratibha
SUVA (Fiji Sun / Pacific Media Watch):  Charges have been filed at the Suva Magistrates Court registry against newspaper company Fiji Times Limited and its six directors alleging Media Industry Development Decree breaches.

Director of Public Prosecutions Christopher Pryde yesterday confirmed the charges had been filed and the matter would be called in court on March 22.

Pryde said the charges allege that the Fiji Times Limited and its directors breached section 38 and section 43 (1) of the 2010 Decree.

This was by failing to ensure that all the Fiji Times directors were Fiji citizens permanently residing in Fiji.

It is alleged that the Fiji Times Limited and Mahendra Motibhai Patel, Kiritbhai Patel, Rajesh Patel, Manu Patel, Bhupendra Patel and Jinesh Patel, being directors of the Fiji Times Limited, between the January 1, 2012 and the December 31, 2012, at Suva, failed to ensure that all its directors were Fijian citizens residing in Fiji.

The decree requires that Fijian news media companies must be 90 percent locally owned and directors must be Fiji citizens and in the country for a set time each year.

Pryde confirmed that these charges were in relation to Mahendra (Mac) Patel, the longtime head of the Motibhai Group, which owns the Fiji Times.

Facing trial
Patel who is facing trial in the High Court on an abuse of office charge has not been in Fiji since late 2011. It is believed that he left the country soon after coming out of prison in 2011, after being found guilty and jailed in another case.

A bench warrant was issued against Patel on March 15, 2012.

Suva lawyer Hemendra Nagin, of Sherani and Company, has been representing Patel in the abuse of office charge.

He had earlier told the court that Patel left for Australia for eye surgery. However, a bench warrant had been issued when Patel did not attend court as scheduled.

Patel is facing one count of abuse of office, brought against him by the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC).

It is alleged that on June 29, 2006, Patel, while chairman of Post Fiji Limited, extended the contract of managing director Peni Mau, without approval of the board of directors of Post Fiji Limited.

The matter was last called last month. FICAC had indicated that it would be asking for a trial in absentia following Patel’s failure to attend court.

This alleged abuse of office matter will be called on March 18 at the High Court.

Patel is charged with former Post Fiji executives Mau and Dhirendra Pratap.

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