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Monday, November 05, 2007

New Zealand Multi-millionaire badly beaten in Fiji

Fiji police are keeping heavy guard over a New Zealand citizen severely beaten after being accused of plotting to kill the country's coup leader.

Auckland-based relatives of multimillionaire businessman Ballu Khan, believed to be a former benefactor of the Auckland Blues rugby team, are waiting desperately for word of him after learning that New Zealand High Commission officials were prevented from visiting him in Suva's central police station.

Prime Minister Helen Clark said today that Mr Khan had been so badly beaten he had trouble speaking, due to swelling around his face.

He was under heavy guard at the hospital, with one of those guarding him involved in the beating he received, she said.

Mr Khan has since been transferred to a private hospital. A spokesman for Foreign Minister Winston Peters said diplomats had been allowed to see him there.

But the spokesman said they were still trying to arrange for him to see a lawyer, who had so far been denied access to him.

Prime Minister Helen Clark has condemned the treatment of Mr Khan, who is among 11 people so far to have been rounded up and accused of plotting to assassinate Fiji's self-appointed interim Prime Minister and coup leader Frank Bainimarama and the country's President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo.

"There is no question this New Zealand citizen has been denied his rights and his human rights have been abused," she said on One News last night.

She denied suggestions by Fijian police that New Zealand might be involved in a plot in some way, but said there was a clear risk to New Zealanders travelling to Fiji.

"I've always been concerned that in the aftermath of the coup, which New Zealand has spoken very strongly against, people would be at risk and sadly this has happened to one of our citizens.

Among others to be detained with Mr Khan was a high chief with links to Fiji's deposed democratically elected rulers, Ratu Inoki Takiveikata.

Commodore Bainimarama was shown on Fiji television entering the Suva police station after Mr Khan was detained, and remaining there for about 30 minutes, after New Zealand officials had been refused entry.

Although Mr Khan has been based recently in Fiji, he developed a large information technology company in Melbourne before moving its head office to the United States several years ago, and has family members living in Auckland.

He was identified by the Herald in 2003 as the benefactor who made a substantial financial contribution to help the Auckland Blues keep former All Black Carlos Spencer from being poached by European rugby clubs.

He was also at that time backing a rugby academy in Fiji that sent young players to New Zealand, and was helping to bankroll the under-resourced Fijian national side.

Although he is understood to have had a home in St Heliers, a Companies Office file on his company Tui Consulting, which he first registered in 1999 and of which he remains the sole director, lists him under a Melbourne address.

Source: NZ Herald

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