Fiji's military strongman Voreqe Bainimarama would not be surprised if his opponents were trying to kill him, he said after news of an assassination plot emerged in New Zealand.
The reports came after New Zealand security officials seized a computer and cellphone during a raid on the Auckland homes of former Fiji cabinet minister Rajesh Singh and other Fijians.
Singh told Television New Zealand the officials claimed they had "credible evidence" a plan to kill Bainimarama -- who seized power in a 2006 coup -- was hatched when a Fijian military defector visited Auckland recently.
"They said don't talk to the media, don't talk to anybody because the Fiji regime doesn't know anything," said Singh, the head of the Auckland branch of the Coalition for Democracy in Fiji campaign group.
If they thought the defector was involved, he said he told them, they "should talk to him, not me".
Bainimarama, who is visiting to South Korea, told New Zealand's Radio Tarana on Thursday: "It would not surprise me if there was intention to assassinate me. There is nothing new from that camp. That is the work of cowards."
But Fiji government officials said they had no evidence of any scheme to murder the leader of the Pacific island nation.
The country's Permanent Secretary for Information, Sharon Smith-Johns, told AFP that Suva was unaware of any plot and "it is up to the New Zealand authorities to investigate this and inform Fiji".
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, who is the minister in charge of the Security Intelligence Service, declined to comment on "an operational matter".
The defector, Colonel Tevita Uluilakeba Mara, who fled to Tonga in May last year and is wanted in Fiji on charges of plotting to overthrow Bainimarama, said he had never contemplated an assassination attempt.
"Absurd news to me. It’s the first time I’ve heard about it and I’m quite surprised about they have put the blame for us on that. I’ve never heard of such a thing, it has never crossed my mind," he said.
Bainimarama tore up the previous constitution when he seized power and promised a new document he said would enshrine principles such as one-person-one-vote, an independent judiciary and transparent governance.
He has said he will root out corruption in the nation of 840,000 and return to democratic elections in 2014.