Qarase Sentenced to 12 Months Jail

This article, republished from Fiji Village, provides a detailed account of the Qarase case and the judgement.

My own view is that while there is no doubt about Qarase's guilt, his  imprisonment, though relatively brief and subject to appeal, will produce fresh charges that the  judiciary is biased and Qarase victimised. Much play will also be made of his age (71), his diabetes, and the ill health of his wife.

Justice Fernando took these and other mitigating factors into account in declaring a one year sentence (it could have been three years) but it is a pity Qarase did not receive a non-custodial sentence.  

However, whatever the sentence, those opposed to the Bainimarama government,  will continue their efforts  to divert attention from  what should be the main issue: the seriousness of  a  crime that  illustrates how some members of the iTaukei elite have used public office to advance their family's pecuniary interests at the expense of other iTaukei.  The judge commented on Qarase's lack of  remorse. I would interpret this as a sign he did not think he had done anything particularly wrong. After all, others were similarly engaged, and in a hierarchical system, it is part of the "natural order" that those at the top gain most.  

12 months prison sentence for Qarase
Publish date/time: 03/08/2012 [13:07]

Former Prime Minister, Laisenia Qarase has been sentenced to one year imprisonment and he has
pagealready been transported to prison in the last hour by the police.
In a packed court room, Presiding Judge, Justice Priyantha Fernando delivered the sentence in the Fijian Holdings Limited trial just before midday today.

With Qarase in the dock, Justice Fernando said that the facts of the case have been established that Qarase as advisor of the Fijian Affairs Board, advisor of the Great Council of Chiefs and director of FHL applied for Class A FHL shares and then facilitated the issuance and allotment of the shares to Cicia Plantation Co-op Society Limited, Q-Ten Investments Limited and Mavana Investments Limited.

Justice Fernando told Qarase that he failed to disclose his interest in the three companies to FHL, FAB and GCC.

The companies highlighted in the charges are Cicia Plantation Co-op Society Limited in which Qarase was the company's financial adviser(they had 400,000 Class A FHL shares), Mavana Investments Limited where Qarase and his wife, Leba had shares (Mavana owned 200,000 FHL shares) and Q-Ten Investments which is a Qarase family owned company (Q-Ten had 200,000 FHL shares).

For the six counts of abuse of office, the maximum sentence is three years imprisonment.

Justice Fernando highlighted cases of Ben Naiveli, former Permanent Secretary for Agriculture, Peniasi Kunatuba, former FNPF CEO Olota Rokovunisei and former Post Fiji Chairman, Mahendra Patel and Peni Mau where prison sentences were handed down.

Justice Fernando said that Qarase held very high office in the public sector as he was a financial advisor in the government and the public vested their trust in him.

He said Qarase had a duty to safeguard the interests of the Fijian people but he applied for shares for companies in which he had a private interest.

Justice Fernando said Qarase has breached the trust of the people.

The judge said he considered all the things said about Qarase in mitigation, that he is 71 years old, has five children and 15 grandchildren, his wife has health issues, he is a first offender, the offence was committed 20 years ago, his diabetic condition is worsening and other health conditions.

Justice Fernando started the sentence at 18 months imprisonment for the six counts of abuse of office.

He then reduced it to 12 months imprisonment.

Justice Fernando then handed a six month prison sentence for the three counts of discharge of duty with respect to property in which he has a private interest.

He ruled that that sentences be served concurrently and gave Qarase a 12 months prison sentence.

He said he considered on whether to hand down a suspended sentence.

However Justice Fernando said one of the issues he had to consider was the gravity of the offence.

Qarase has been given 30 days to appeal the prison sentence. His lawyer, Tupou Draunidalo confirmed that she will appeal the sentence on Monday.

Following the sentencing, Qarase hugged his lawyers and his wife, Leba. He was then escorted by police officers to the back end of the court house, got into a police vehicle and taken to prison.

Story by: Vijay Narayan


Cin Cin said…
And many are still similarly engaged, though as the saying goes 'to the Victor, the spoils', we just on't get to hear about it.
Victor Lal's ravings said…
Victor Lal is among those loudly protesting Qarase's innocence.

Die-hard mahen chaudhry supporters turned blind eye to evidence of his alleged corruption Victor produced. Now staunch Qarase supporter Victor is doing same thing - turning blind eye to evidence of qarase's corruption.

It shows double standards, inconsistency and confusion on Victor’s part. He claims the Qarase charges were “trumped up”. Really Victor? Then, based on the same argument, your charges against Mahen were trumped up too.

Victor insists Yang should disclose her fees in the Qarase Trial. Is this man really reading law at Oxford? Does he understand court cases? He can’t even tell who is on trial, or that there is no legal basis for Yang to disclose her fees during this trial. Why bother wasting ‘ink’/space on this non-issue? Is this ignorance, or are you clutching at straws to support a weak argument, Victor?

On Yang, Victor says: “If she has the gall to demand that Qarase should be sent to prison for allegedly not disclosing his interest some twenty years ago, she should be sent to prison too.” Now we are into jailing prosecutors for doing their job! This ‘legal scholar’ does not seem to understand a basic fact – you can be charged for an offence even if occurred 20yrs ago.

According to Victor, “…the once proud Fijian judiciary has become a theatre for Hong Kong and Sri Lankan lawyers to treat it as their own fiefdoms”. What proud Fiji judiciary Mr Lal? Where the hell were you when your friends Qarase and Qoriniase Bale were hounding the prosecution for being too successful in the Speight coup cases and Ridgeway was deported overnight?

It is you Victor who is ridiculing the once-proud Fiji judiciary by trying to engage the prosecution in your silly pretend lawyer games.

Victor was right to pursue mahen’s case, but the AG is wrong to do the same in Fatiaki’s case – Victor’s inflated sense of self and worth is staggering – talk about thinking the sun shines out of there every morning!

Victor accuses others of ‘trumped up charges’, then proceeds to do exactly that, and more. He insists that “Yang should be put on trial for conspiring to pervert the course of justice in the Fatiaki’s tax case”. This man freely quotes unnamed sources and makes wild, unsubstantiated allegations – then he has the gall to call into question the legitimacy of the court proceedings: does the expression, ‘pot calling the kettle black’ ring a bell Victor?

And none of that tired claptrap about this being an illegal regime. It has been effectively in power since 2006. I do not like it. But that is the truth. Someone has to run the country: life has to go on. We have to move forward – a basic fact that escapes Victor’s ‘sharp’ legal mind.

Victor’s article is a litany of trumped up, unsubstantiated charges and rants. A bit of professional jealously is also at play.

I am not a shrink, but anyone can see that Victor may have unfulfilled ambitions about fighting legal cases in court – he is living out this fantasy by challenging the prosecution’s case in the only way he can – via a blog article. One has to credit Victor for finding another use for social media: pretend lawyers like him, who are not qualified, or lack confidence to fight cases court, can do it in cyberspace.

His article is all about “I”: I did that; I investigated this; I got an email from this person; during the course of “my investigation, I made friends”… and so forth and so forth…boastful, boring, empty, unsubstantiated rubbish from a so-called oxford scholar.

He says: “The gall of …Elizabeth Yang beggars belief. There she was, up before Judge Priyantha Fernando in the Suva High Court, calling on the Sri Lankan judge to lock up Laisenia” – this smacks of the legal version of ‘penis envy’ from Victor. Poor boy so wants to be a lawyer. He has resorted to the next best thing – playing Qarase’s defence lawyer in cyberspace – hahaha, what a joke this guy is.

Get help Victor. Go, see a shrink.
junta justice said…
This win for you, Davis and the junta will prove to be a sad day for Fiji. The credibility of the judicial system under this illegal regime is in tatters. It is very clear where Fiji is heading.
Anonymous said…
Laseina Garase should count himself lucky as he got only 1 year sentence, there r other 1st offenders who dont even get this even if they r sick, pregnant or a solebread winner, 9 counts was something,why this kind of injustice?
Fark Fanning said…
Using your official position for personal gain is a crime.

If you do the crime, you have to do the time.

This is NOT a win for Croz, Davis or the junta, it is a win for the rule of law.

The best thing is that it serves notice on others not to misude your office position, as the law will catch up with you.

God bless the new Fiji.
Anonymous said…
@ Fark Fanning
Is treason a crime? If the rule of law existed in Fiji those who committed treason in 2006 would be before the courts by now. There is no rule of law in Fiji - it is a sham.
Fark Fanning said…
Yes, it is and all those who have committed it, starting from 14 May 1987, will keep looking over their shoulders. I think Siti Rabuka is next in line.

I support FB's agenda of a non-racial, corruption free Fiji.

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