QARASE PLEADS NOT GUILTY TO ABUSE OF OFFICE

The former Fiji prime minister charged by corruption commission

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Feb. 26, 2008) – Deposed Fiji Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase appeared in court last night charged with three counts of abuse of office and one count of failing to declare his interest when his family company bought shares into Fijians Holdings Ltd.

As relatives wept outside the jam-packed court room, Mr Qarase who was charged by the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption pleaded not guilty to all four counts before Magistrate Aruna Prasad.

Ms Prasad questioned FICAC prosecutor Sofia Ali about the lateness of the hour as the case was expected to be called at 5.30pm yesterday but convened two hours later.

While Ms Ali apologised, Ms Prasad said the delay affected the court clerks, police and others who had to wait for so long without food.

"Bring the charges at a reasonable time, unless it is an emergency," she said.

Mr Qarase was represented by Suva lawyer Penina Salele.

He is charged with:

The case will be called again on March 28 for mention. FICAC did not object to bail. Mr Qarase is expected to pay a $2000 bail, $2000 surety as one of his bail conditions. Other bail conditions were that he not discuss the case with the media.

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