Former Fiji PM Frank Bainimarama Sentenced to One Year Jail for Obstructing Police Investigation into Corruption

Former prime minister of Fiji, Frank Bainimarama, a prominent figure in the Pacific Islands, has been handed a one-year prison sentence for impeding a police inquiry into corruption.

Bainimarama, aged 70, commanded Fiji’s leadership for over 15 years until his ousting in 2022. Internationally, he was recognized for his advocacy on climate change issues affecting vulnerable Pacific nations.

Following the High Court’s decision on Thursday, Bainimarama was escorted away in handcuffs.

This verdict stemmed from his recent conviction for obstructing justice during a probe into fraudulent activities at the University of South Pacific, where alleged financial mismanagement involved irregular bonuses, promotions, and salary increases for staff.

Though Bainimarama maintained his innocence, the court determined that he, along with former Fijian Police Commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho, abused their authority to stifle the university investigation.

READ ALSO: 317 People Illegally Deported to Osun Must be Brought Back to Lagos, Violate Their Constitutional Right —Falana

Initially, Bainimarama was spared imprisonment when a magistrate decided not to record his conviction. However, this leniency was challenged by Fiji’s top prosecutors, leading to Thursday’s ruling by the high court, which imposed prison sentences on both men.

Qiliho, who has been suspended from his position, received a two-year sentence. Outside the courtroom, supporters of Bainimarama gathered, singing hymns, while political figures commended the court’s decision.

“The court case and sentencing shows… that people who break the law, doesn’t matter who they are, they are brought to account,” Unity Fiji party leader Savenaca Narube said.

Observers of politics have pointed out the timing of the criminal cases initiated against Bainimarama.

Following his narrow defeat in the December 2022 election to current Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka, who led a coalition of parties, Bainimarama is facing numerous allegations of political misconduct.

Last year, as an opposition leader, Bainimarama was suspended from parliament for three years after delivering a speech critical of the new government.

Despite these challenges, Bainimarama’s political party, FijiFirst, remains steadfast in its support for him.

According to local media reports, senior party member Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum stated, “Bainimarama will continue to lead the FijiFirst party. We will address any issues in 2026.”

Bainimarama, a former military commander, initially seized power in Fiji through a bloodless coup in 2006. He maintained his position through successful democratic elections in 2014 and 2018.