Absolute Discharge for Fiji PM Bainimarama And Fine Without Conviction for Qiliho

Magistrate Seini Puamau has thrown out the conviction of former Fiji PM Voreqe Bainimarama granting him absolute discharge, while the suspended Police Commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho received a fine without conviction, prompting a mix of relief and contemplation from those present in the magistrate court, and its immediate sorroundings in Suva today.

In delivering the sentence, Magistrate Puamau, who acquitted both individuals of perverting the course of justice and abuse of office charges last October, deemed the offenses minor or trivial, and in Qiliho’s case, she also cited insufficient evidence.

Magistrate Puamau stated that she carefully assessed all evidence, including the offenders’ characters, the nature of the offenses, and case facts observed firsthand since the trial commenced in March last year.

In Bainimarama’s case, she also considered a medical report from his physician, Dr. Joji Malani, detailing heart-related issues, a history of coronary artery disease, bypass surgery, irregular heartbeat corrected with a pacemaker, obstructive sleep apnea treated with CPAP machine therapy, neuropathic pain, thyroid cancer history, and low heart rate, among other conditions. She noted Dr. Malani’s advise that imprisonment could severely impact Bainimarama’s health due to pre-existing conditions and potential complications.

Puamau highlighted Bainimarama’s first-time offender status, cooperation during proceedings, and character references from former Presidents Ratu Epeli Nailatikau and Jioji Konrote, and former RFMF Commander Viliame Naupoto.

Regarding Qiliho, Puamau found no evidence of stopping the investigation for personal gain, instead citing his concern about process duplication when instructing officers to “close the investigation file.”

She considered Qiliho’s years of service to the country, that he cooperated with police and the trial process, a family man as well as character references, including one from Leader of Opposition Inia Seruiratu. Despite recognising the seriousness of the offense, Puamau imposed a fine without conviction, citing Qiliho’s service and potential contributions, noting that a conviction could harm his reputation and career. She deemed it the appropriate sentence given the specific case facts.

Qiliho received a $1,500 fine, payable within 30 days. Failure to pay within this period would result in imprisonment for the same duration. However, timely payment would prevent a recorded conviction.

The proceeding was not without controversy when an exchange ensued, in the latter stages of the sitting, after state counsel and assistant DPP Laisani Tabuakuro questioned the appropriateness of observing a moment of silence for the late DPP David Toganivalu in light of the verdict of the court. Tabuakuro and Nancy Tikoisuva then proceeded to excuse themselves and exited the court early.

In her closing statement in court, Puamau maintained the judiciary’s independence, stating that she is too. She then asserted her expertise and qualifications in the field of criminal law, including her years of service at the Office of the DPP advising the state counsel and any member of the public to refrain from commenting about her expertise, competence, and diligence, until they have comparable experience and achievements, urging humility and caution.

About an hour after the case concluded, the state appealed against the sentences.

Related Articles:

State Appeals Against Former Fiji PM Bainimarama And Suspended COMPOL Qiliho’s Sentences

Sentencing Day For Former Fiji PM Bainimarama And Suspended Top Cop Qiliho

Bainimarama and Qiliho Guilty – High Court Reverses Acquittal

Bainimarama And Qiliho Plead Not Guilty To Unlawful Termination Charges

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