Fiji’s former prime minister Frank Bainimarama and suspended police commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho will go to trial over corruption allegations.
The charge being brought against Bainimarama is attempting to pervert the course of justice and Qiliho is charged with one count of abuse of office.
The allegations are related to a complaint filed by the University of the South Pacific (USP) in July 2019 concerning the actions of the regional university’s former staff members.
The duo were held in a Suva police cell in March after allegations of interfering with an active police investigation. It is alleged the former leader told Qiliho to stop investigations into allegations of abuse.
Subsequently, Qiliho directed the Criminal Investigations Department director to stop the investigation.
Earlier, defence lawyers filed a no case to answer based on lack of evidence but on Thursday afternoon in Suva, the Magistrate Seini Puamau ruled there was relevant and admissible evidence to indicate the investigations into USP did stop and that there is a case to answer.
Puamau said the state has alleged that Bainimarama suggested to Qiliho to stay away from the USP investigation indicating Bainimarama’s objective to ensure that this investigation never makes its way to a court of law.
The magistrate said by virtue of his position of leadership Bainimarama was aware or ought to have been aware of the power his words held.
State broadcaster FBC News reports Puamau also said that Bainimarama was aware or ought to have been aware that the investigation was underway, that they had merit and if left to continue unabated, they could result in some charge being filed in court.
The magistrate also said the state alleges that Qiliho intentionally directed two subordinate officers to do an act which he knew was arbitrary and in abuse of authority of his office, namely, to stop an investigation into allegations arising from activities at the University of the South Pacific.
There is relevant and admissible evidence to indicate the investigations into USP did stop.
Bainimarama and Qiliho have the right to remain silent or testify in open court along with the right to call witnesses on their behalf.
The charges carry a jail term up to five years.
The matter has been adjourned to 28 September.
SOURCE: RNZ PACIFIC/PACNEWS