Fiji state appeals Banimarama and Qiliho sentences in corruption case

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Former Fiji prime minister Voreqe Bainimarama in a more jovial mood
Former Fiji prime minister Voreqe Bainimarama in a more jovial mood earlier today after being granted an absolute discharge without a conviction. Image: RNZ Pacific

RNZ Pacific

Fiji’s Acting Public Prosecutor has filed an appeal against the sentences of former prime minister Voreqe Bainimarama and suspended police chief Sitiveni Qiliho in their corruption case.

Bainimarama was granted an absolute discharge for attempting to pervert the course of justice while Qiliho received a conditional discharge with a fine of FJ$1500 ($NZ$1110) for abuse of office by the Suva Magistrates Court earlier today.

Magistrate Seini Puamau announced that both their convictions would not be registered.

“The sentence delivered by Magistrate Puamau is unsatisfactory, is wrong both in fact and in law and does not reflect the considerations and tariff of cases or matters of similar nature,” Acting Director of Public Prosecution John Rabuku said in a statement following the sentencing.

The notice of appeal against the sentence was filed in the High Court this afternoon.

The state has filed four grounds of appeal:

  • a. That the sentence imposed by the learned Magistrate against both the Respondents are manifestly lenient and in breach of sentencing principles, case laws and the tariff set in other similar matters and offences.
  • b. That the learned Magistrate erred in law and in fact when she made a finding that there were no aggravating factors against the Respondents.
  • c. That the learned Magistrate erred in law and in fact in considering irrelevant factors in sentencing the Respondents; and
  • d. That the learned Magistrate erred in law and in fact when she made a finding that there was no victim and that the offending was a technical breach by both Respondents.

Lowest-level sentence
An absolute discharge is the lowest-level sentence that an offender can get. It means no conviction was registered against Bainimarama.

State broadcaster FBC News reports that Magistrate Puamau considered Bainimarama’s health.

The 69-year-old was sentenced alongside Qiliho, who was given a FJ$1500 fine without conviction as well.

The absolute discharge and a fine without conviction was given despite the prosecutors last week urging Magistrate Puamau to order immediate custodial sentences towards the high end of the tariff for both men — which would be no less than five years in jail for Bainimarama and 10 years for Qiliho.

RNZ Pacific reported earlier today that a Fiji governance professor, Dr Vijay Naidu, said the magistrate had been sypathetic to both men.

“It is surprising in that the sentencing is like the minimalist kind of approach,” he said.

“I didn’t expect the magistrate to sentence them for the maximum of you know 10 . . . and five years, but the sentence now is quite farcical because these persons are found guilty and they are given sentences that, to say the least, is quite ludicrous.”

He said Bainimarama was “not out of the woods yet” because there was a string of other charges that he would face in the coming months.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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