Qarase, 71, found guilty of abusing his office but his supporters say charges are politically motivated
Associated Press in Suva
Fiji‘s last democratically elected leader was sentenced on Friday to one year in prison after being convicted on corruption charges that his supporters say were politically motivated.
Laisenia Qarase was found guilty on Tuesday of abusing his office and failing to perform his duties. Court documents say the 71-year-old former prime minister failed to disclose a private investment interest in three companies that he was helping manage in an official capacity some 20 years ago.
Qarase served six years as prime minister before being ousted by Fiji’s current leader, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, in a 2006 coup. At the time of the offences, Qarase was financial adviser for the Fijian Affairs Board and the now-disbanded Great Council of Chiefs, as well as a company director.
More than 300 Qarase supporters showed up at his sentencing at the high court in the capital, Suva, where security was tight. Many of his supporters maintain the charges were a politically motivated way for Bainimarama’s regime to consolidate power and prevent his foes from running for office.
Bainimarama has made clear his disdain for Qarase and the former prime minister’s political policy of favouring native Fijians ahead of other ethnic groups.
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