Former Fiji premier faces corruption trial

January 15th, 2010 - 4:10 pm ICT by IANS  

Wellington, Jan 15 (DPA) Former Fiji prime minister Laisenia Qarase, who was ousted in a bloodless military coup just over three years ago, faces a trial on corruption charges next week, according to news reports from the capital Suva.
The trial is scheduled to start in Suva Tuesday, nearly two years after Qarase was first charged with five counts of abuse of office brought by the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption, the Fijivillage news website reported Friday.

The alleged offences occurred between November 1991 and February 1995 when Qarase, a former banker, was director of Fijian Holdings Limited (FHL), a member of the Fijian Affairs Board (FAB) and advisor to the then-Great Council of Chiefs, the influential body for the indigenous Fijian people.

Qarase did not become prime minister until 2000 when he was appointed by military strongman Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama, who declared martial law following a coup by indigenous Fijian businessman George Speight.

Qarase went on to win a general election in 2001 but was overthrown in December 2006 by Bainimarama who accused him of corruption and inciting racial strife by favouring indigenous Fijians over the ethnic Indian minority.

Bainimarama has since refused to hold new elections and has ruled with emergency powers since April when he sacked the Pacific island country’s judges, abolished the constitution and imposed censorship on all media outlets.

Bainimarama, who appointed himself prime minister, said this week that all people receiving government pensions would have their payments stopped if they criticised his government.

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