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Fiji: Former PM Frank Bainimarama sentenced to prison

May 9, 2024

Fiji's High Court found Frank Bainimarama guilty of quashing a probe into allegations of corruption at a Fijian university.

Fiji's former prime minister Frank Bainimarama speaking with his supporters
Frank Bainimarama continues to remain a popular figure in FijiImage: Leon Lord/AFP/Getty Images

The former prime minister of Fiji, Frank Bainimarama was sentenced to a year of imprisonment on Thursday after a court found him guilty of perverting the course of justice.

Fiji's High Court in the capital Suva found that Bainimarama used his political clout to quash a police probe into allegations of corruption at a university in Fiji.

Judge slams former PM for ignoring oaths of office

Initially, Bainimarama was spared jail during the sentencing last month but an appeal upended the decision.

The acting Chief Justice Salesi Temo chided Bainimarama for ignoring his oaths of office. 

However, his sentence was reduced based on the strength of character references provided by two former Fijian presidents.

A former military commander, he seized power in a bloodless coup in 2006 and continues to remain a popular leader in the South Pacific country.

While the court handed down the sentence, Bainimarama's supporters sang outside. The former premier was then handcuffed before being taken away by a police truck.

Fiji's Frank Bainimarama walks out of the court
Frank Bainimarama was taken away from the court in a police truckImage: Leon Lord/AFP/Getty Images

The case against Bainimarama

In 2020, when Bainimarama was the prime minister, a police investigation into the staff at Fiji's University of the South Pacific implicated him and his longtime ally Sitiveni Qiliho who was the nation's top police officer.

According to witnesses, when the university staff found a trail of suspicious bonus payments, pay raises and promotions, Bainimarama and Qiliho used their influence to sideline the investigation.

Both Bainimarama and Qiliho have maintained they are innocent.

mfi/kb (AFP, Reuters)