Former Fiji PM Bainimarama and Suspended Top Cop Charged

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Fiji’s top prosecutor has sanctioned charges of abuse of office against former prime minister Frank Bainimarama and the suspended commissioner of police Sitiveni Qiliho.

Police have been questioning Sitiveni Qiliho and the former prime minister for the past month.(ABC News: Lice Movono)

In a statement on Thursday, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution said the charges relate to a complaint filed by the University of the South Pacific in July 2019.

The complaint was concerning the actions of former staff members of the regional university.

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama (C) speaks at the opening remarks of Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) in Suva on July 12, 2022 (Photo by William WEST / AFP)Frank Bainimarama Photo: AFP / William West

Public Prosecution director Christopher Pryde said both men were alleged to have arbitrarily abused their powers and stopped an active police investigation.

Police have been ordered to further investigate other issues as a result of Bainimarama and Qiliho’s alleged interference and more charges are expected to be laid.

Meanwhile, both men were taken in for further questioning by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) on Thursday.

The CID chief and assistant commissioner of police Sakeo Raikaci is expected to hold a press conference at 8pm local time, according to reports by Fijian media.

According to RNZ News today reports, Former Fijian prime minister Frank Bainimarama is due to appear for a special hearing in a Suva court this morning after spending the night in a police cell alongside the suspended police chief Sitiveni Qiliho.

Fiji’s former prime minister Frank Bainimarama is taken into the Totogo Police remand centre in Suva on March 9, 2023. Photo: AFP / Leon Lord

The pair were charged with one count each of abuse of office following the sanctioning of charges by the Public Prosecutions director (DPP) Christopher Pryde earlier on Thursday.

The two are alleged to have interfered in an active investigation into a financial mismanagement case involving former staff of the University of the South Pacific almost four years ago.

Acting Police Commissioner (ACP) Sakeo Raikaci said they were kept in custody at the Totogo Police Station and will be taken to the Suva Magistrates Court at 8am local time.

“Bainimarama and Qiliho were brought in for further questioning today [Thursday]. Upon the completion of the questioning via video recording interview, the two were formally charged,” ACP Raikaci said.

“As advised by Pryde, the special task force headed by the Director Criminal Investigations will undertake further investigations into other matters arising from this case.”

Police were expected to release more information when there were new developments, Sakeo said.

Sitiveni Qiliho (C), who is currently suspended from his role as police commissioner and is a key ally of Fiji’s former prime minister Frank Bainimarama Bainimarama, arrives at the Poice CID headoffice in Suva on March 9, 2023. – Qiliho and Bainimarama are due to appear in court on March 10 to face a charge of abuse of office. (Photo by LEON LORD / AFP)Sitiveni Qiliho, who is currently suspended from his role as police commissioner, arrives at the Poice CID head office in Suva on March 9, 2023. Photo: AFP / Leon Lord

DPP Pryde said the former PM and suspended police commissioner “are alleged to have arbitrarily and in abuse of the authority of their respective offices, terminated an active police investigation”.

ACP Sakeo told local media the charges laid against them were not bailable.

He also defended the independence of the investigations.

“There is no interference into the handling of these cases by other senior officers, as the investigation team reports directly to me as their line Assistant Commissioner of Police, the Chief of Intelligence, Investigations and Prosecutions,” he said.

“Investigators are given full autonomy to conduct the necessary work of the gathering of statements and evidence and the questioning of persons of interest.”

Source: RNZ Pacific,  ABC News