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Fiji ex-prime minister charged with abuse of office

Fiji ex-prime minister charged with abuse of office

Fiji’s former prime minister Frank Bainimarama (C) is taken into the Totogo Police remand centre in Suva on March 9, 2023.
| Photo Credit: AFP

Fiji’s former prime minister Frank Bainimarama is due to appear in court Friday to face a charge of abuse of office, police said, months after an election removed him from power.

After being questioned by police on Thursday, state prosecutors laid a single charge each against Mr. Bainimarama and Sitiveni Qiliho, a key ally who is currently suspended from his role as police commissioner.

The pair are due to appear at Suva magistrates court on Friday after being kept in custody, acting police assistant commissioner Sakeo Raikaci said in a statement.

It is alleged that Mr. Bainimarama and Mr. Qiliho quashed a police investigation.

While the exact nature of the investigation was not disclosed, the charges relate to the activities of former staff members at Fiji’s University of the South Pacific in July 2019.

Mr. Bainimarama and Mr. Qiliho are alleged “in abuse of the authority of their respective offices” to have “terminated an active police investigation”, said public prosecutions director Christopher Pryde.

“More charges may be laid against other suspects in due course,” he added, without providing details.

Mr. Bainimarama served as Fiji’s prime minister from 2007 following a bloodless coup until last December’s general election.

On Wednesday, he resigned from parliament, which last month suspended him until 2026 for breaching parliamentary procedure.

In a speech to parliament, Mr. Bainimarama accused Fiji’s president of failing to protect the constitution, which was “being stripped away almost on a daily basis” by the new coalition government.

Mr. Qiliho was suspended in January by Fiji President Wiliame Katonivere.

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