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Former Fiji PM Bainimarama sentenced to year in jail

Friday 10 May 2024 | Written by Supplied | Published in Fiji, Regional

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Former Fiji PM Bainimarama sentenced to year in jail
Former Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and suspended Police Commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho exit court in handcuffs. FijiVillage/24050806

Former Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has been sentenced to one year in prison.

Bainimarama, alongside suspended Fiji Police commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho appeared in the High Court in Suva yesterday for their sentencing hearing for a case involving their roles in blocking a police investigation at the University of the South Pacific in 2021.

Qiliho has been sentenced to two years jail.

Bainimarama, the 69-year-old former military commander and 2006 coup leader, had been found guilty of perverting the course of justice.

Qiliho had been found guilty of abuse of office by the High Court Acting Chief Justice Salesi Temo.

Bainimarama and Qiliho walked out of the High Court in Suva in handcuffs, and were escorted straight into a police vehicle.

Earlier on Thursday morning (local time), local media reported an increased police presence outside the Suva court complex.

"There is more pronounced police presence than usual with vehicles being checked upon entry. A section has been cordoned off in front of the High Court facing Holiday Inn," broadcaster fijivillage.com reported.

State broadcaster FBC reported that police only allowed close relatives and Bainimarama and Qiliho's associates, along with the media, to sit in the courtroom.

Brief timeline:

  • The duo were sentenced by the Magistrates Court on 28 March.
  • Magistrate Seini Puamau gave Bainimarama an absolute discharge - the lowest level sentence an offender can get and no conviction was registered.
  • Qiliho was fined FJ$1500 and without a conviction as well.
  • The 69-year-old former military commander and 2006 coup leader was found guilty of perverting the course of justice in a case related to the University of the South Pacific; and suspended police chief Qiliho was found guilty of abuse of office by the High Court Acting Chief Justice Salesi Temo.
  • Magistrate Puamau's judgement had left many in the legal circles and commentators in the country perplexed.
  • The State - through the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution - had appealed the sentencing straightaway to the High Court.
  • They were back in court 7 days later - during the court appearance at the High Court, the Acting Chief Justice Salesi Temo, gave time until the 24 April for the respondents to file their submissions and for the State to reply by the 29th.
  • The sentencing hearing was last Thursday, 2 May.
  • Acting Chief Justice Salesi Temo sentences Bainimarama to one year in jail and Qiliho for two years.
  • Bainimarama's attempt to pervert the course of justice charge had a maximum tariff of five years while Qiliho's charge of abuse of office carried a maximum tariff of 10 years.