Fiji’s former Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and suspended Commissioner for Police Brigadier-General Sitiveni Qiliho have pleaded not guilty to charges of abuse of office.

Their case was called before Resident Magistrate Jeremaia Savou today.

Both were present in court when their charges were read.

Magistrate Savou asked whether there were any admissions during their interview, ODPP lawyer Pooja Mishra said that they would refer to the partial admission by Qiliho but none from the former Prime Minister.
While responding defence counsel Davenesh Sharma said that they would not be referring to the caution interview during the hearing.

Sharma also said that he would file an affidavit disputing that the second accused was not a public servant but a civil servant, at the time.

He said that there was a difference in the definition of a public servant and a civil servant in the Constitution, which would argue their case, concerning the second accused.

Magistrate Savou had put to both parties whether they intended to have a speedy trial and indicated that his diary for this year was already full and if a trial date is to be set, it would be the beginning of 2025.

Both Sharma and Mishra said that would come up with alternative dates in the next court date.

The pair are charged with offences relating to alleged abuse of office, regarding the unlawful termination of two police officers in 2021.

It is alleged that Bainimarama, between the 21 May 2021 to 18 August 2021 in Suva, being employed as a public official, gave an unwarranted demand to Rusiate Tudravu, to terminate the employment of Sergeant Penieli Ratei and Police Constable Tomasi Naulu from the Fiji Police Force, and if he did not terminate the officers, he was to hand in his resignation.

His demand was directly related to Bainimarama’s official capacity as the Prime Minister of Fiji and was done to influence Tudravu, a public official, in the exercise of his official duty as the Acting Commissioner of Police.

It is alleged that Qiliho, between the 05 – 18 August 2021 in Suva, being employed as the Commissioner of Police, reviewed the disciplinary decision given by Rusiate Tudravu as the Acting Commissioner of Police against Sergeant Penieli Ratei and Police Constable Tomasi Naulu which was five equivalent paid working days, and contrary to this decision terminated the employment of Ratei and Naulu from the Fiji Police Force in the abuse of the authority of his office which was an arbitrary act, prejudicial to the rights of Ratei and Naulu.

The matter has been adjourned to 02 May for Pre-Trial Conference.

Meanwhile, the DPP lawyer in the case involving FijiFirst Leader Voreqe Bainimarama, former Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and former Health Minister Neil Prakash Sharma has called for a speedy trial date.

Laisani Tavoko pressed for a swift trial suggesting it be scheduled for May of this year.

However, Magistrate Namrata Mishra clarified that she would not oversee the substantive matter as Chief Magistrate Waleen George will be responsible for it.

Sharma faces charges of two counts of abuse of office and two counts of breach of trust while Bainimarama is charged with one count of abuse of office and Sayed-Khaiyum with one count of abuse of office and one count of obstruction of justice.

The allegations suggest non-compliance with statutory requirements for tenders outlined in the 2010 Procurement Regulation.

Representing Bainimarama and Sayed-Khaiyum are Devanesh Sharma and Gul Fatima while Wylie Clarke appered on behalf of Sharma.

The case has been adjourned until 09 April.