Former Fiji prime minister faces corruption charges

Other News Materials 26 February 2008 04:08 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa ) - Former Fiji prime minister Laisenia Qarase, ousted 16 months ago in a bloodless military coup, has appeared in court on corruption charges, according to news reports from the capital Suva.

Qarase pleaded not guilty to three counts of abuse of office and one count of failing to declare personal interest, brought by the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption, when he appeared Monday evening in court.

He was remanded on bail until March 28.

The alleged offences occurred between November 1991 and February 1995, when the former banker was the 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 traditional paramount 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.

The charges allege that Qarase abused his powers of office in share dealings on behalf of his family company.