Ex-Fiji PM jailed for corruption

Former Fiji prime minister Laisenia Qarase, the last democratically elected leader in the coup-plagued South Pacific nation, was sentenced to 12 months jail Friday after being found guilty of corruption.

Qarase, who became prime minister in 2000 and was ousted in a military coup six years later, was convicted on nine charges of abuse of office and failing to discharge his duty when he was a public servant in the 1990s.

The charges related to his time as a director of a government investment company called Fijian Holdings from 1992 to 1995, when prosecutors said he put the interests of his family and home village before the public.

High Court judge Priyantha Fernando said the 71-year-old, who pleaded not guilty, had breached the public trust and must serve a custodial sentence.

He said the case showed that all officials, even those in high positions, were accountable for their actions.

The conviction means Qarase will not be eligible to contest elections which the military regime that deposed him in 2006 plans to hold in 2014.

In a separate case, another former Fiji prime minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, who lost office in a coup in 2000, is due to face trial in the next few months for allegedly breaching foreign exchange laws.

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