Former Fiji PM Bainimarama sentenced to year in jail


Ex-PM Frank Bainimarama has reportedly been sentenced to jail for perverting the course of justice.
Ex-PM Frank Bainimarama has reportedly been sentenced to jail for perverting the course of justice.

Fiji’s former long-serving prime minister Frank Bainimarama has been sentenced to a year in prison for perverting the course of justice, the country’s director of public prosecutions says.

Bainimarama was initially spared jail in the case during sentencing in April, before being overturned on appeal.

A former military chief, Bainimarama came to power in a 2006 coup and later won democratic elections in 2014 and 2018.

In his ruling, acting High Court of Fiji Chief Justice Salesi Temo said Bainimarama had abused the trust of his compatriots in his capacity as prime minister.

Temo said his sentencing took into account the health of Bainimarama, 70, who underwent heart surgery in 2022, and references given by other former leaders of Fiji.

Bainimarama was found guilty this month by the High Court of attempting to pervert the course of justice while he was prime minister by telling then police commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho not to investigate allegations of graft at the region’s University of South Pacific, court documents show.

Qiliho was sentenced to two years in jail at the same hearing for abuse of office, the Fiji’s Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions said in a statement.

Bainimarama was prime minister in 2019 when he ended a police investigation into allegations of financial mismanagement at the University of the South Pacific.

The university is owned by 12 Pacific Island nations and its main campus is in Suva. The university’s administration had alleged to police that abuses of funding and mismanagement had been happening for a decade.

Prosecutors alleged the prime minister and police commissioner ended an active police investigation into former university staff members. 

Prosecutors said police were continuing their investigation and could lay more charges.

Bainimarama did not react when his sentence was read out on Thursday, but his wife Mary Bainimarama broke down in tears as she sat by his side in court, ABC reported.

His lawyers said they would appeal but Temo rejected their application to have Bainimarama released on bail pending an appeals court hearing.

Police led Bainimarama from court in handcuffs to a van that took him to a prison outside Suva.

Bainimarama narrowly lost power in December 2022 to a coalition of parties led by current prime minister, Sitiveni Rabuka.

with AP and EFE