No conviction recorded and no prison sentences for Bainimarama and Qiliho

No conviction recorded and no prison sentences for Bainimarama and Qiliho

By Vijay Narayan , Rashika Kumar
Thursday 28/03/2024
Former PM Voreqe Bainimarama and Suspended COMPOL Sitiveni Qiliho

Former Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama has been granted absolute discharge in the University of the South Pacific case by Magistrate Seini Puamau while suspended Police Commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho has been fined $1,500 and this has to be paid within 30 days and failure to do that will result in 30 days imprisonment.

Qiliho’s conviction will also not be recorded.

The Magistrate says for both Bainimarama and Qiliho, there are no discernible aggravating factors.

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Bainimarama’s absolute discharge is the lowest-level sentence that an offender can get.

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

Magistrate Puamau got Bainimarama to stand up in the packed courtroom and said for the reasons she had highlighted, she grants him an absolute discharge.

She says in her opinion, Bainimarama’s charge is a trivial violation.

She also highlighted that two former Presidents, including Ratu Epeli Nailatikau and Jioji Konrote provided character references for Bainimarama.

Former Army Commander and FijiFirst MP, Viliame Naupoto was the other character reference. Bainimarama's health history was highlighted to Magistrate Puamau where he has undergone a heart bypass, has sleep apnea and needs a machine and electricity for its running, has a pacemaker for his heart and needs his mobile app for it.

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Magistrate Puamau says it seems it will likely result in an incredibly diminished quality of life and potential death as a result of a heart problem, acute sleep apnea and Bainimarama’s reliance on CPAP or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure treatment, and his high risk of a heart attack.

She says an inmate is subjected to significant stress, poor diet, and inadequate exercise.

Magistrate Puamau says a fine without conviction for Qiliho is the best for this case.

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She says there is no evidence that Qiliho had directed Police officers Serupepeli Neiko and Reshmi Dass to close the USP case for personal gain.

Leader of the Opposition, Inia Seruiratu and Viliame Naupoto also provided character references for Qiliho.

Magistrate Puamau has stressed that the judiciary is independent.

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There was tight Police security at the Suva courthouse.

Bainimarama and Qiliho were found guilty of one count of attempt to pervert the course of justice and one count of abuse of office respectively by Acting Chief Justice Salesi Temo, and Magistrate Puamau was ordered to record the conviction and sentence the two.

The court corridors were crowded with members of the public, and the court room was full before 11am when the case started.

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Bainimarama’s attempt to pervert the course of justice charge has a maximum tariff of 5 years while Qiliho’s charge of abuse of office carries a maximum tariff of 10 years.

According to the charges, Bainimarama sometime in July 2020 as the Prime Minister directed the Police Commissioner to stop the investigation into a police complaint, in the abuse of the authority of his office, which was an arbitrary act prejudicial to the rights of the University of the South Pacific which is the complainant.

For Qiliho’s charges, the charges say that Qiliho on the 15th of July, 2020 as the Police Commissioner directed the Director of the Criminal Investigations Department, Serupepeli Neiko and Inspector Reshmi Dass to stop investigations into the police complaint by the USP, in the abuse of the authority of his office, which was an arbitrary act prejudicial to the rights of USP.

The defence counsel led by Devanesh Sharma had asked for a non-prison sentence and the option to be handed suspended sentences for both Bainimarama and Qiliho while State lawyer Losalini Tabuakoro has asked that Bainimarama and Qiliho should be imprisoned for 1 to 3 years and 6 to 10 years respectively.


About 100 people celebrate with Bainimarama and Qiliho outside court

There are too many officers present, you need to go look for drugs - Bainimarama
By Vijay Narayan, Mosese Raqio
Thursday 28/03/2024
Former Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama waves to the crowd after exiting court.

There was cheering and applause as former Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama and suspended Police Commissioner, Sitiveni Qiliho came out of court after Bainimarama was granted absolute discharge and Qiliho was fined $1,500 without registering conviction by Magistrate Seini Puamau.

About 100 people were outside the Suva courthouse.

Bainimarama wished Happy Easter to many of the waiting supporters before leaving with his family.

Qiliho came out smiling, hugged a few people in the carpark area and walked away.

While greeting his supporters on his way into court, Bainimarama pointed at the Police officers that were present at court and called out, “there are too many officers present, you need to go look for drugs.”



DPP lawyer says sentencing is disgraceful and they will appeal

Magistrate Puamau says what Tabuakoro said will not be recorded as it is inappropriate
By Vijay Narayan, Rashika Kumar
Thursday 28/03/2024
DPP lawyer, Laisani Tabuakoro leads the prosecution team out of the court room.

DPP lawyer, Laisani Tabuakoro says they find the sentencing for Voreqe Bainimarama and Sitiveni Qiliho disgraceful, and they will appeal the absolute discharge for Bainimarama and fine without registering conviction for Qiliho by Magistrate Puamau.

Magistrate Puamau says what Tabuakoro said is inappropriate and it will not go on the record as they are not allowed to make comments like that.

She says the DPP is free to appeal it.

Tabuakoro then suggested that they take a break for 5 minutes however, Magistrate Puamau said that if the State chooses to leave then it is prudent to do so and she will be taking a minute of silence for late former DPP, Ratu David Toganivalu.

Ratu David was the prosecutor in the case before his passing.

Tabuakoro then asked if they can be excused and was allowed to leave by Magistrate Puamau.

A minute of silence was then observed and following which, Magistrate Puamau again stressed that the judiciary is independent and so is she and you can do what you like with that.

She says when State counsel have had the number of years of service she has had at the DPP’s Office, the academic qualifications she has, dedicated their entire lives, both private and personal, in the study of criminal law; written the number of directives and policies for ODPP, written its Prosecutions Handbook and conducted training for a multitude of years, including and up to national training, then the State counsel can make the comment about her expertise.

She says until then it is best they exercise humility and care.

Magistrate Puamau says she wants to also say this to any member of the public that wants to say something about her.

She says when you have that volume of work experience in criminal law under your belt, then you talk.

The return date has been set for April 28th.


Click Here for the indepth into Bainimarama and Qiliho's Acquittal Appeal : https://www.fijivillage.com/indepth/Bainimarama-and-Qilihos-Acquittal-Appeal-f45rx8/

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