Former Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has expressed gratitude for the prayers and support of friends, family and well-wishers following his acquittal in court Thursday.

He also extended his thanks to his legal team and Magistrate Seini Puamau, whom he credited with clarifying what he described as the “confusion” caused by the Criminal Investigations Department’s alleged “trumped-up charges.”

“We want to thank our legal team-Devanesh and Gul and of course we also want to thank the Magistrate for clearing that confusion that has been put in place by the CID team for bringing about some trumped up charges, truth will prevail.”

In a significant ruling, Suva Magistrate Seini Puamau acquitted Bainimarama of charges related to perverting the course of justice.

Puamau emphasised the State’s failure to establish a compelling case against the former Prime Minister, particularly in proving allegations that he had advised suspended Police Commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho to cease an ongoing investigation involving the University of the South Pacific.

Qiliho also expressed his gratitude to supporters and highlighted that his future as Commissioner of Police now rests with the Constitution Offices Commission.

“That’s the call of the Constitutional Offices Commission but right now I just want to exalt my Lord Jesus Christ, I am going away to say my prayers.”

Magistrate Puamau’s ruling noted that there were at least three investigations related to the University of the South Pacific.

The first investigation involved financial mismanagement, the second was an ongoing investigation, and there was a third investigation concerning a protest organised by the university staff.

Puamau clarified that she was not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Bainimarama had instructed Qiliho to stay away from the CID’s investigation against the University of the South Pacific, and there was no evidence to establish this beyond reasonable doubt.

In her ruling, Puamau stated that while she had initially found there was admissible evidence capable of implicating Bainimarama in deflecting the police from the course of justice, she no longer held that view after reviewing the defence exhibits.

She noted that Bainimarama’s concerns were related to national matters, particularly the ongoing COVID-19 situation.

Puamau stated that Qiliho’s assertion that Bainimarama suggested he leave the USP investigation to his officers to focus on bigger national issues was not deemed an act capable of constituting an offence to pervert the course of justice.

Crucially, the court found no evidence to suggest that Qiliho ruled the Fiji Police Force in an authoritative manner, highlighting his competence and principled approach.

These charges stemmed from a complaint lodged by the University of the South Pacific in July 2019, centred on the behaviour of former staff members.

Bainimarama and Qiliho left the court as free men, concluding a trial that began in July and concluded at the Suva Magistrate’s Court Thursday.

The ruling by Magistrate Seini Puamau has cleared the former Prime Minister and the suspended Police Commissioner of the charges against them.