Tuesday, September 03, 2013

The SIS and Fiji's dictator

Last year, the SIS raided several properties in Auckland, supposedly in connection with an assassination plot against Fijian dictator Voreqe Bainimarama. Despite the seriousness of this alleged crime, no-one was arrested, and no charges were ever laid. Given the low threshold for arrest, we can safely conclude that the SIS's grounds for believing in this plot were unreasonable and improbable. And now, Winston Peters is alleging in Parliament that the raids were illegal and suggesting that the SIS were attempting to curry favour with the Fijian regime in the leadup to Murray McCully's visit.

Of course, this being Winston, there's no evidence that the raids were illegal. As far as has been reported, they had legal search warrants to search and seize particular items. That said, search warrants require both a specified crime and reasonable grounds both that an offence has been committed and that specified evidence relating to that offence will be found. If the "evidence" on which they were based came from the SIS, then those grounds were likely a complete fantasy, and the search warrants unlawful as a result. But I'm not aware of any legal challenge to them so far.

What has been challenged is the SIS revoking a member of the Fiji Democracy Movement's passport - and in that case the SIS withdrew their recommendation the moment the case was filed [PDF]. You can draw your own conclusions about the strength of their "evidence" and whether it would withstand judicial scrutiny.

If the SIS has behaved unlawfully, then those responsible need to be fired. But I'd like to see more evidence first. But so far, we can at least conclude that their "case" looks very shaky indeed. Much like every other operation of theirs which has come to public attention.