25 May 2018

Fiji's Rabuka charged by anti-corruption investigators

1:39 pm on 25 May 2018

The leader of Fiji's main opposition party, Sitiveni Rabuka, was charged by anti-corruption investigators on Friday, apparently over anomalies in his financial declarations.

Fiji SODELPA leader Sitiveni Rabuka

Fiji SODELPA leader Sitiveni Rabuka Photo: AFP

The Sodelpa leader, who is a former prime minister, was called in for questioning on Thursday night and for much of Friday morning before the charges were announced at about midday. He will appear in court on Friday afternoon.

In a brief statement outside the Suva offices of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC), Mr Rabuka's lawyer, Lynda Tabuya, confirmed he had been charged with a regulatory offence.

RNZ Pacific understands the charges relate to an alleged anomaly in his financial declarations for 2017, a requirement under the Political Parties Decree. Mr Rabuka maintained his innocence.

Mr Rabuka is not currently an MP, so Sodelpa's makeup in parliament will not be affected by the charges. However, this does throw a spanner into the party's plans ahead of elections scheduled for later this year, on a date yet to be announced.

The instigator of the 1987 coup, Mr Rabuka was made party leader in 2016 to go up against Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, the Fiji First leader and instigator of the 2006 coup.

In his statement, Mr Rabuka hinted that the charges could be politically motivated.

"We are under attack," he said to a group of journalists outside the offices.

"So many forces coming against us at this time, the only thing we can do is appeal to the supreme strength, and that is God."

In an earlier video statement posted to his Facebook page, Mr Rabuka called for supporters to remain calm.

"I urge all members to remain steadfast and not to panic. If I go I go, others will be there to continue the race."

Earlier this week, in an interview with RNZ Pacific, Mr Rabuka criticised what he considered a lack of democratic freedoms in Fiji, particularly the sedition laws under which the Fiji Times, a letter writer, and senior journalist are being tried.

The Sodelpa leader is the second member of the opposition party to be taken in by ICAC this parliamentary term, after the MP Ratu Isoa Tikoca was charged and suspended.

He was acquitted last year.