Former Fiji attorney-general released on bail after abuse of office charge
Former Fiji attorney-general and minister for economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, was granted bail in a Suva court on Tuesday.
Fiji’s former attorney-general Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, charged with one count of abuse of office, has been released on a FJ$10,000 (NZ$7000) bail.
Sayed-Khaiyum was ordered to provide two sureties when he appeared in a Suva court on Tuesday.
He was arrested on Monday and spent the night in a police cell.
Police said the charge related to a report lodged by acting Supervisor of Elections Ana Mataiciwa against Sayed-Khaiyum in February.
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Sayed-Khaiyum has been ordered to surrender his travel documents and reside at his permanent residence in Nadi.
His bail conditions also include reporting to the Namaka Police Station on the last Saturday of every month and not to interfere with witnesses.
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Sayed-Khaiyum did not take a plea and the case has been adjourned to June 13.
The State alleged he abused his authority as acting prime minister between June 30 and July 12 last year.
The former minister for economy is alleged to have agreed to pay the taxes of former elections’ supervisor Mohammed Saneem without the proper approval of Fiji’s Constitutional Offices Commission (COC) and the country’s President.
Saneem was suspended on January 19 after a “complaint of misbehaviour” was received by the COC.
He was also criticised over his handling of the general election on December 14 and resigned on February 2. Twenty-four hours later, he was stopped by border officials at Nadi Airport while trying to board a flight to Australia.
Sayed-Khaiyum told journalists outside court on Tuesday that police involved in his investigations were “under a lot of pressure”.
“The police have been very courteous. They were very professional. Some of them are under a lot of pressure. They get told certain things that, ‘that is the direction’, then they have to do XYZ. This is actually a political witch-hunt.”
Sayed-Khaiyum also claimed that there were “continuous breaches of the constitution”.
“For any country, any economy, any society to function properly, to be fair, to be just, to ensure that the marginalised are looked after is that you must have the rule of law. At the moment it would appear a number of cracks are appearing.”
Sayed-Khaiyum’s arrest comes two months after former prime minister Frank Bainimarama was charged with abuse of power.
Bainimarama is accused of stopping a police investigation into former staff members at the University of the South Pacific.
He also spent a night in a police cell before appearing in court on March 10, becoming the first former Fijian leader to be remanded in police custody.
Bainimarama and Sayed-Khaiyum’s FijiFirst Party was ousted at December’s general election, with former prime minister Sitiveni Rabuka’s coalition forming the new government.
Bainimarama’s charges relate to a complaint to police made by the USP in July 2019 about the activities of former university staff members.
On March 8, he resigned from Fiji’s Parliament – just two weeks after copping a three-year suspension for making seditious comments.
Bainimarama said his suspension on February 17 was “unwarranted and most certainly unjustified”.
“I did not swear nor did I make any racist or divisive comments,” he told a media conference.
Suspended police commissioner Brigadier-General Sitiveni Qiliho was also charged with abuse of office and appeared in court with Bainimarama.
Both men allegedly interfered in the investigation into a financial mismanagement case involving former staff of the USP four years ago.
Bainimarama and Qiliho pleaded not guilty to abuse of office charges and have been bailed to reappear in court on May 11.
They have also been ordered not to leave the country and to reside at a permanent address.
Fijians have been assured there was no need to panic as police called for calm from the public amid the high-profile arrests.
In a statement, Fiji’s Home Affairs Minister Pio Tikoduadua said no one should be “apprehensive” about the security of the country.
He said police have “everything under control, and we urge everyone to go about their business as usual”.
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