Former Fiji PM Chaudhry Questioned for Tax Evasion

Wellington, Jul 23 (DPA): Former Fiji prime minister Mahendra Chaudhry, who is of Indian-origin, was questioned for the third consecutive day Friday by police over allegations of tax evasion and money laundering, according to reports from the capital Suva.

Chaudhry became the first ethnic Indian to become prime minister when he lead the Fiji Labour Party to victory in a general election in May 1999. He was ousted and held hostage with his cabinet by an extremist indigenous Fijian businessman, George Speight, one year later.

Chaudhry, 68, was appointed finance minister by military strongman Commodore Frank Bainimarama after his coup in December 2006 but later resigned and has since criticised his leadership as "autocratic and dictatorial".

He was taken in for questioning Wednesday, detained overnight and released only to be interrogated again Thursday and asked to return to police Friday morning, the Fiji Times website reported.

The state-owned Fiji Broadcasting Corporation, which like all local media operates under strict military censorship, said Chaudhry was expected to be charged soon, but gave no details of his alleged offences.

According to news reports, Chaudhry has been questioned regarding some $1.3 million given to him by supporters in India after his removal from power.

He has reportedly admitted that he had moved much of the money into bank accounts in Australia and New Zealand.




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