Prominent Fijian lawyer wins battle to work in NZ

By Jimmy Ellingham

Muhammed Sahu Khan in 2000. File photo / NZ Herald
Muhammed Sahu Khan in 2000. File photo / NZ Herald

A prominent Fijian lawyer and sports administrator is now allowed to act as a barrister in New Zealand after arguing that harsh punishments imposed for misdemeanors at home were politically motivated.

Dr Muhammed Sahu Khan left Fiji in 2011 after he was banned from holding a lawyer's practising certificate for 10 years when local authorities found he didn't act appropriately in two land transfers.

Dr Sahu Khan, who opposes military strongman Frank Bainimarama's government, argued the punishment was politically motivated. Back home he was a leading figure in sports administration, heading the country's football association for 26 years.

On the world stage he was the deputy chairman of Fifa's disciplinary committee and treasurer of the Oceania Football Confederation.

Because of his the ban from practising, the New Zealand Law Society would not grant Dr Sahu Khan a practising certificate for this country.

But after an appeal against that decision, the Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal today ruled he could act as a criminal barrister in New Zealand.

At a hearing this week Law Society lawyer Paul Collins said although the ban imposed on Dr Sahu Khan was harsh, there were still concerns about him recognising conflict of interest situations and trying to sue one of the people who made a complaint against him in Fiji.

Tribunal chairwoman Judge Dale Clarkson said Dr Sahu Khan would not be able to apply for a solicitor's certificate. This means he can represent criminal and civil clients in court.

After the hearing Dr Sahu Khan said he had been out of the courtroom since he was banned in May 2011.

"I'm very pleased with the decision and I'd like to thank my counsel Richard Pidgeon for the wonderful performance and preparation he did. Now, of course, I'm looking forward to practising as a barrister in New Zealand."

Dr Sahu Khan will be based in south Auckland.

The 73-year-old obtained his academic qualifications from The University of Auckland and has practised in New Zealand before.

The tribunal heard law had been his life and would also provide valuable income at a difficult time, with his wife suffering from breast cancer.

Dr Sahu Khan said when Mr Bainimarama came to power, Fiji's Law Society was dissolved and lawyers were banned from holding public meetings.

"I did not support the regime," he said. "I was asked to be a member of certain boards but I refused. I felt because of the refusals they thought I was anti-regime."

As well as football administrator, Dr Sahu Khan said he was a hockey administrator and former captain of Fiji's national team.

This week, foreign minister Murray McCully lifted travel sanctions against Fiji, saying the country was making good progress toward holding free and fair elections.

- APNZ

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