Fiji's ex-leader, Frank Bainimarama, sentenced to prison for interfering in police investigation


MELBOURNE, Australia — Former Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama was sentenced Thursday to a year in prison for interfering in a criminal investigation while he headed the government of his South Pacific island nation.

Acting High Court of Fiji Chief Justice Salesi Temo sentenced the 70-year-old in the capital Suva on a conviction for attempting to pervert the course of justice. Suspended Police Commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho received a 2-year prison sentence on a conviction for abuse of office, The Fiji Times newspaper reported.

Bainimarama had led his government for 16 years, first as a military dictator following a 2006 coup and then as a prime minister who was democratically elected in 2014 and 2018. After the 2022 election, he was succeeded by Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka, who also first seized power as a coup leader in 1987.

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.

A lower court judge had acquitted Bainimarama and Qiliho of the charges last October. But prosecutors successfully appealed to the High Court, which convicted them both.

Bainimarama did not react when his sentence was read out, but his wife Mary Bainimarama broke down in tears as she sat by his side in court, Australian Broadcasting Corp. 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.



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