High Court to decide fate of ex-Fiji PM Bainimarama and suspended police chief Qiliho

The fate of former Fiji prime minister Frank Bainimarama and suspended police commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho will be known today.

The two men are appearing in the High Court in Suva on Thursday morning for their sentencing hearing, for a case involving their roles in blocking a police investigation at the University of the South Pacific in 2021.

Last month, they avoided jail after the Magistrates Court gave Bainimarama an absolute discharge and Qiliho a FJ$1,500 fine. Both men were let off without a conviction being registered.

According to local media reports, there is 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 is reporting that police are only allowing close relatives and Bainimarama and Qiliho’s associates, along with the media, to sit in the courtroom.

It reports former and current FijiFirst MPs, including opposition leader Inia Seruiratu, Faiyaz Koya and Tupou Draunidalo are present in court.

Brief timeline:

  • The duo was 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$1,500 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 Thursday.
  • Bainimarama’s attempt to pervert the course of justice charge has a maximum tariff of 5 years while Qiliho’s charge of abuse of office carries a maximum tariff of 10 years.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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