Fiji’s former Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama jailed for a year

Judge says Bainimarama abused his power to shut down an investigation into alleged corruption at the University of the South Pacific

Fiji's former prime minister Frank Bainimarama. He is wearing a blue and white patterned shirt with a jacket. His hair is white. He is arriving in court. There are other people nearby.
Frank Bainimarama arriving for a court hearing in February [Leon Lord/AFP]

Frank Bainimarama, who was Fiji’s prime minister for some 15 years until losing power in 2022, has been jailed for a year after he was found guilty of using his position to shut down a corruption investigation into a prominent university.

Once armed forces chief, Bainimarama seized power in a 2006 coup and later won democratic elections in 2014 and 2018.

The 70-year-old narrowly lost the December 2022 election to a coalition of parties led by the current prime minister, Sitiveni Rabuka, but remains a popular figure.

Outside the court in Suva on Thursday, a crowd of supporters gathered ahead of the sentencing.

Bainimarama’s wife Maria sobbed as acting Chief Justice Salesi Temo announced his decision, and the former prime minister was led away in handcuffs.

Bainimarama was found guilty earlier this month of perverting the course of justice by telling then-police commissioner and longtime ally Sitiveni Qiliho not to investigate allegations of corruption at the University of the South Pacific.

Qiliho was jailed for two years in the case, which relates to a July 2020 police investigation into alleged corruption over a web of bonus payments, promotions and pay rises within the institution. The court found the two men used their influence to sideline the investigation.

Both men denied the charges.

Bainimarama’s legal woes have mounted since Rabuka, a former military commander, who himself led two power grabs in the late 1980s, became prime minister.

In February 2023, parliament suspended him until 2026 after a speech in which he criticised his successor.

A year later, he was hit with two separate charges for abuse of office. One count related to the allegedly unlawful firing of two police officers in 2021. The other was over his alleged waiving of a tender bid “without lawful justification” when he was finance minister in 2011.

Source: News Agencies