Defence calls for suspended sentence in Bainimarama/Qiliho case

March 21, 2024 2:21 pm

Former Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and suspended Police Commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho

Former Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and suspended Police Commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho are at the centre of a legal case where their  counsel has called for a suspended sentence.

This is in contrast with the State’s push for a custodial sentence favouring the upper range of the tariff.

Magistrate Seini Puamau had refrained from pronouncing Bainimarama and Qiliho guilty as directed by Acting Chief Justice Salesi Temo.

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However, she had acknowledged the High Court’s findings which convicted Bainimarama for attempting to pervert the course of justice and Qiliho for abuse of office in relation to interference in an ongoing investigation at the University of the South Pacific.

During his sentencing submission in the Suva Magistrates Court today, prominent lawyer Devanesh Sharma presented four key points.

Firstly, he addressed the issue of repentance and remorse emphasizing the distinction between being found not guilty and being acquitted through subsequent High Court judgment.

Sharma argued against considering repentance and remorse as mitigating factors as the defendants had initially pleaded not guilty, maintaining their dignity.

He urged the court to consider the totality of evidence presented during the trial and any aggravating factors attached to the offence, proposing a sentence of less than two years if imposed.

State counsel Laisani Tabuakuro countered Sharma’s arguments highlighting the abuse of power by Bainimarama and Qiliho.

She stressed the need for the sentence to serve as a deterrent, citing past cases involving individuals in positions of authority who received custodial sentences.
Tabuakuro also referred to the case of the late Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase and others of similar leadership stature.

She recommended a 12-month to 36-month imprisonment for Bainimarama and adherence to the tariff for Qiliho which dictates a sentence between six to 10 years for abuse of office.

Sharma is expected to respond to the State’s submissions later this afternoon.

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