Former Fiji Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and suspended Police Commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho have been acquitted in a high-profile trial, with the court finding them not guilty of the charges of attempting to pervert the course of justice and abuse of office, respectively.
In her ruling, delivered today after an approximately 11-week trial, Resident Magistrate Seini Puamau declared that she did not find sufficient evidence to prove the charges that were laid against them as was reported under CID/HQ PEP 12/07/2019.
“There was no evidence to establish beyond reasonable doubt that Mr. Bainimarama was aware of the investigations into CID/HQ PEP 12/07/2019 at the time he made [the] comment…There has been no evidence that he knew anything about CID/HQ PEP 12/07/2019 prior to this conversation with the commissioner in June 2020, I find that the state has not proven this element beyond reasonable doubt. I find Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama not guilty.
“I am not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the second defendant had intentionally directed an act that was arbitrary in nature in the abuse of the authority of his office prejudicial to the rights of another. I find the second defendant Sitiveni Tukaituaraga Qiliho Not Guilty.”
Bainimarama was charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice and Qiliho with abuse of office. These allegations were related to actions supposedly taken in July 2020 when Bainimarama, serving as Prime Minister at the time, was alleged to have directed Qiliho, the Police Commissioner, to halt an investigation into a police complaint filed by the University of the South Pacific (USP). It was claimed that Qiliho, as the Police Commissioner, subsequently instructed the Director of the Criminal Investigations Department, Serupepeli Neiko, and Inspector Reshmi Dass to cease their investigation into the USP’s complaint.
Throughout the trial, the defense argued that the actions of the accused and their intentions were not to obstruct justice or abuse their office. The court, after consideration, determined that the evidence presented during the proceedings did not support the charges brought against Bainimarama and Qiliho.
The verdict marks the end of a lengthy legal process that began on July 17 and involved the testimony of nine state witnesses, including former Acting Commissioner of Police Rusiate Tudravu, former heads of the Criminal Investigations Department Mesake Waqa and Biu Matavou, and the lead investigating officer Reshmi Dass in the complaint filed by the University of the South Pacific, Reshmi Dass.
Bainimarama and Qiliho maintained their innocence throughout the trial.