Church leader jailed
The leader of an evangelical church was jailed for two years yesterday after being found guilty of sexually assaulting a woman who approached him for counseling in June last year after suffering anxiety and depression after the birth of her fourth child, reports said. All Nations church founder Reverend Epeli Ratabacaca was sentenced in Suva High Court after being found guilty last week on one count of sexual assault and acquitted on two rape charges, Fiji Broadcasting Corp reported. Ratabacaca, 54, who pleaded not guilty to all charges, was initially sentenced to four years, but the jail term was reduced to reflect the military veteran’s previously clean record, news site fijivillage.com said. Judge Paul Madigan described Ratabacaca’s actions as “a gross breach of trust” that warranted a custodial sentence, adding that the cleric had expressed no remorse toward his victim. The All Nations Christian Fellowship’s Web site says Ratabacaca founded the evangelical movement 15 years ago.
Drugs probe launched
Police yesterday said a multinational drugs investigation had been launched after the discovery of a mystery yacht with a dead body aboard stranded on a remote Pacific reef. A pair of divers spotted the yacht last week off the Vava’u island group and found the decomposing body of a Caucasian man when they boarded to investigate, police commissioner Grant O’Fee said. He said investigators were treating the yacht as a crime scene and a probe was underway involving police from Australia, the Cook Islands and the US Drug Enforcement Agency. O’Fee declined to say whether drugs had been found on the yacht, revealing only that Tonga was not believed to be its intended destination. He said the body had not been identified and an autopsy would be carried out this week.
Chief justice probed
Parliament has appointed 11 lawmakers to investigate the accusations in an impeachment motion against Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake. A group of lawmakers submitted the motion two weeks ago that accuses Bandaranayake of having unexplained wealth and misusing her power. The lawmakers called for a select committee to investigate 14 charges cited in the motion. Bandaranayake has rejected the allegations against her. Opposition parties and independent analysts say the impeachment process is a politically motivated attempt to stifle the judiciary’s independence and concentrate power for President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
INXS end 35-year tour run
Rockers INXS are giving up touring after 35 years. Drummer Jon Farriss announced the end of the band’s remarkable run of performances during a concert in Perth earlier this week. The band later confirmed the news in a statement. INXS was formed in 1977 and released their self-titled debut album in 1980. They achieved worldwide fame with hits such as New Sensation, Need You Tonight and Devil Inside. Frontman Michael Hutchence died in 1997. In a statement on Tuesday, the band paid tribute to their friend, saying: “We lived for each other in the trenches and we loved each other. It was the six of us against the world and then suddenly and inexplicably we were but five.”
Diamond sale posts records
The flawless “Archduke Joseph” diamond, from India’s famous Golconda mines, broke several world records when it was sold at auction in Geneva late on Tuesday for US$21.47 million. The price which the 76 carat jewel fetched at the Christie’s sale is a record for the auction of a clear, colorless diamond. It is also the highest auction price per carat for such a gem and the record for a Golconda diamond, the same mines that produced the Koh-i-Noor which adorns the British Queen’s crown. The “Archduke Joseph,” which was bought by an anonymous bidder, once belonged to the Habsburgs, former rulers of the Austrian empire.