Former Fiji Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase, who was ousted in a military coup in December 2006, has been charged with corruption and released on bail, officials said on Tuesday.
Qarase appeared in court yesterday night charged with three counts of abuse of office and one of failing to declare his interest when his family company bought shares in Fijian Holdings Ltd, an indigenous Fijian equity investment company.
The abuse of office charges were linked to Qarase's terms as a director of Fijian Holdings Ltd, a member of the Fijian Affairs Board and adviser to the Great Council of Chiefs between November 1991 and February 1995.
Qarase pleaded not guilty to all four counts before Magistrate Aruna Prasad. He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
He was released on bail of USD 1,300 and a surety of the same amount, and ordered not to discuss the case with the media. The case returns to court on March 28.
The charges are the first brought by the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption set up last year by the South Pacific nation's military-led government.
Military commander Commodore Frank Bainimarama overthrew Qarase's government on Dec 5, 2006, alleging it was corrupt and racist for imposing policies to advantage the majority indigenous Fijian population ahead of ethnic Indians who make up about 37 per cent of the population.