January 25, 2017 6:54 pm

NZ travel refused despite $2.7m properties as security

The High Court in Suva has refused bail variation for Fiji Times publisher, Mr Hank Arts to travel to New Zealand.

Mr Arts and four others are accused of inciting communal antagonism against the Muslim community by publishing a statement in the Nai Lalakai newspaper.

He wanted to visit New Zealand from February 11 to 27 to attend the wedding of his stepdaughter and to undergo a medical review.

In his application, Mr Arts had proposed to forfeit two properties he jointly owned with his wife as security, as well as the balance in his FNPF account.

One of the properties is located at Vuda, Lautoka valued at $2 million.  The other house is in Lami valued at $728,000.

His application included affidavits from his wife and stepdaughter, and a letter from New Zealand doctor Dr Ivan Connell.

The judge ruled that Mr Arts’ properties had native leases and needed consent under the Native Land Trust Act to transfer.

Similarly, the Fiji National Provident Fund Decree only allowed payments from the account for specific purposes.

The judge also ruled that Mr Arts did not provide information on whether the medical facilities and services he needed were unavailable in Fiji and that his only option was to receive a medical review overseas.

Justice Rajasinghe noted that Mr Arts had dual citizenship of Fiji and New Zealand and had strong family and community ties in New Zealand, and had to justify changes to the condition of bail.

“Undoubtedly, it is an emotional moment for a father to walk down his daughter along the wedding aisle on her wedding day.  However, considering the wider spectrum of interest of justice and proper administration of justice, the court requires to go beyond the emotional aspect of human relationships in an application of this nature.”

Mr Arts was allowed 30 days to appeal to the Fiji Court of Appeal.

Earlier: State given time to file disclosures in Fiji Times case