Coup accused given island

Last updated 12:29 24/12/2013
NEW JOB: Lieutenant Colonel Tevita Mara was land force commander in Fiji in 2010, effectively the second most powerful man to coup leader Frank Bainimarama.

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One of Fiji's top soldiers implicated in a failed coup and later investigated by New Zealand's spy service over an assassination allegation has become one of the top officials in Tonga's royal palace - and been given an island.

Lieutenant Colonel Tevita Mara was land force commander in Fiji in 2010, effectively the second most powerful man to coup leader Frank Bainimarama.

But he and another officer, Brigadier General Pita Driti, were accused of planning a coup in late 2010. Both were arrested for mutiny and sedition.

Driti was this month convicted and jailed for five years but Mara got away.

During Driti's trial, evidence was heard that Mara had wanted Bainimarama dead by Christmas 2010.

In April 2011 Mara, while on bail, went fishing in Fiji waters near Kadavu and was secretly picked up by a Tongan Navy boat, which claimed it had rescued him in international waters.

Mara, who is the son of Fiji's founding prime minister and president, the late Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, is from the Lau group in Fiji.

The Polynesian part of Fiji, Lau was long part of Tonga and its chiefs are part of the Tongan royal family.

The Fiji Sun reported today that Mara has become private secretary to Tonga's ruler, King Tupou VI.

The king's sister, Pilolevu Tuita, has given him an island and the Sun says he is developing it for eco-tourism.

Mara had been a strident opponent of Bainimarama and up until March this year had been issuing tough-worded statements, calling for people to rise up and overthrow the commodore who seized power in 2006.

But the Sun says he had been told by the Tongans to be quiet about that and not to be seen any longer to be politically involved.

Mara visited Auckland last year and Fiji tried to get New Zealand authorities to arrest him so he could be extradited back to Suva.

During his time in Auckland he met members of Fiji's pro-democracy movement. Several months later the Security Intelligence Service raided several Auckland addresses, seizing electronic items.

Agents told people who were raided that they were investigating a plot to assassinate Bainimarama they believed had been developed in Auckland.

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