Friday, November 16, 2001

Feds urge charges
against isle legislator

State Rep. Nathan Suzuki will
not have to testify in the
Boulware criminal tax trial

By Debra Barayuga

The U.S. Department of Justice's tax division has recommended criminal charges be filed against state Rep. Nathan Suzuki, a visiting federal judge said yesterday.

And Suzuki's attorney, Robert Klein, confirmed in court and court documents that prosecutors have said they intend to charge Suzuki with conspiracy at some point, based on alleged misrepresentations made on his personal taxes involving his ownership of Pacific Vendors Equipment Ltd.

U.S. District Judge Edward Rafeedie ruled yesterday that Suzuki will not have to testify in the ongoing criminal tax evasion trial of businessman Michael Boulware, agreeing that ordering him to testify would violate his right against self-incrimination.

"If he were under investigation and be indicted, there's no telling what this evidence would engender," Rafeedie said. "I don't know if the witness should be put in that position."

Rafeedie quashed a subpoena yesterday issued by federal prosecutors ordering Suzuki to testify about tax returns he prepared for Boulware, president of Hawaiian Isles Enterprises, and Boulware's ex-girlfriend Jin Sook Lee.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward Groves argued that the government would limit its questioning of Suzuki as to his knowledge and preparation of the individual returns.

Boulware is charged with 19 counts, including conspiracy, bank fraud and failing to report nearly $10 million in income that he diverted from his company for his benefit. Hawaiian Isles is a major player in the wholesale coffee, bottled water, vending machine and cigarette distribution business.

Suzuki, a former comptroller of Hawaiian Isles Enterprises until 1988 and a certified public accountant, prepared personal income tax returns for Boulware for tax years 1989 to 1994. The lawmaker was not charged in this case.

Prosecutors contend Suzuki was a secret majority shareholder in a Tongan corporation, Pacific Vendors, through which Boulware laundered money to avoid personal tax liability. They say Suzuki's state Capitol office fax machine was used on one occasion to wire a document as part of the scheme.

Rafeedie denied Suzuki's request for a closed-court proceeding.

In court documents filed by Suzuki and unsealed yesterday by Rafeedie, Suzuki contends he agreed to be a majority shareholder to help Boulware in establishing Pacific Vendors. They had hoped Suzuki's position as state legislator would help speed up the company's incorporation in Tonga in 1994, the documents said.

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