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Fiji’s high court on Thursday sentenced former Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama to one year in prison for influencing a 2019 graft investigation while he governed the Pacific Island nation, the Guardian reported.

The case is centered on allegations of financial mismanagement at the University of the South Pacific, one of the top universities in the Pacific and collectively owned by 12 nations in the region. Its main campus is in Suva, the capital of Fiji.

Prosecutors charged Bainimarama – the country’s prime minister at the time – with perverting the course of justice by telling the then-Police Commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho to drop the investigation.

Suspended Police Commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho received a two-year prison sentence on a conviction for abuse of office, the Fiji Times newspaper reported.

Both men initially avoided convictions last year in a lower court, but the case moved to other tribunals before the high court’s ruling Thursday, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Thursday’s conviction is just one in a series of charges the former long-serving leader faces after his ousting from office following his party’s loss in the 2022 general elections.

Bainimarama first came to power in a coup in 2006, and later won democratic elections in 2014 and 2018. He remains an influential figure in Fijian politics, although his 16-year rule was marked by tense relations with Pacific nations, including New Zealand and Australia.

He received praise abroad for his efforts to push for stronger action on climate change.

However, critics made allegations of corruption against his officials and complained of tough restrictions on civil liberties.

Meanwhile, his supporters have labeled the legal challenges against him as a witch hunt.

In spite of his conviction, he is expected to remain the leader of the FijiFirst party, party officials said.

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