Suva Magistrate Seini Puamau has granted absolute discharge to former Fijian Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama in the University of the South Pacific (USP) case.

Magistrate Puamau had taken into account health issues concerning Bainimarama.

With the absolute discharge, Bainimarama’s finding of guilt is made but no conviction is registered.

Character reference heard in court were from former Presidents Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, Jioji Konrote and former RFMF Commander Viliame Naupoto.

Magistrate Puamau also noted that Bainimarama cooperated during the trial.

Second accused in the case, suspended Police Commissioner Brigadier-General Sitiveni Qiliho has been fined $1,500 (750).

This has to be paid within 30 days and failure will result in 30-days prison.

A conviction will not be recorded against him.

Magistrate Puamau ruled that there is no evidence that Qiliho had directed Police officers Neiko and Dass to close the case for personal gain.

She stated that a fine without conviction is the best for this case.

Meanwhile, Fiji’s Acting Director of Public Prosecutions, John Rabuku, has filed an appeal against the sentence of the former Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, and suspended Commissioner of Police, Sitiveni Qiliho.

Rabuku said the sentence delivered by Magistrate Puamau is unsatisfactory, is wrong both in fact and in law, and does not reflect the considerations and tariffs of cases or matters of similar nature.

The former PM and the suspended COMPOL were found not guilty and acquitted accordingly by Resident Magistrate Seini Puamau at Suva Magistrates Court on 12 October 2023.

The state had filed an appeal against their acquittal, and the Acting Chief Justice then overturned the Magistrate’s decision and found the two guilty as charged.

The matter was then sent back to the Magistrates’ Court for sentencing.

In sentencing the duo, Magistrate Puamau announced that both their convictions would not be registered.

The state has filed four grounds of appeal, stating that the sentences imposed by the learned magistrate against both respondents are manifestly lenient and in breach of sentencing principles, case laws, and the tariff set in other similar matters and offenses.

The second ground of appeal is that the learned Magistrate erred in law and in fact when she made a finding that there were no aggravating factors against the respondents.

The third is that the learned Magistrate erred in law and in fact in considering irrelevant factors in sentencing the respondents, and that the learned Magistrate erred in law and in fact when she made a finding that there was no victim and that the offense was a technical breach by both respondents.

The Notice of Appeal against the sentence was filed in the High Court this afternoon