14 Apr 2023

Fiji's top prosecutor suspended for alleged misconduct

1:15 pm on 14 April 2023
Christopher Pryde, Fiji's Director of Public Prosecutions

Christopher Pryde Photo: Supplied

Fiji's chief prosecutor has been suspended for "allegations of misbehaviour" by the country's head of state.

President Ratu Wiliame Katonivere made the decision to stand down the director of public prosecutions (DPP) Christopher Pryde on Thursday, under chapter 5, part A, section 112(4) of the constitution.

The top prosecutor has been advised "that a tribunal will be appointed to investigate allegations of misbehaviour," the Fijian government said in a statement on Thursday.

"You are suspended, and you are to take your overdue leave of 168 days which expires sometime in December 2023, and the same to take immediate effect," President Katonivere said in a letter that was hand-delivered to Pryde.

Pryde, who has held to position of chief prosecutor since November 2011, has been told to hand over all official property, including laptop and mobile phone to the Chief Registrar of the High Court.

The decision to suspend him was made following advice from the country's Judicial Services Commission.

"President Katonivere further informed Pryde that following the advice of the Judicial Services Commission, with regard to the nature of the complaints, it was appropriate that he be suspended pending referral to the tribunal," the government said.

He becomes the latest high-profile figure who has been suspended and put under investigation by Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka's three-party coalition government.

Senior Suva lawyer Ratu David George Toganivalu has been appointed to act in his place.

In an email response on Friday, Pryde told RNZ Pacific that he was confident that the public prosecution office is in good hands.

"I have...advised my staff to give their full support to Ratu David Toganivalu who is acting DPP whilst I am suspended," he said.

"I am confident the ODPP is in good hands."

RNZ Pacific has also contacted the ODPP for comment.

Meeting with former AG

But while Pryde awaits his pending investigation, Attorney-General Siromi Turaga has alleged he met with the country's former chief law officer.

Turaga told local media that Pryde had met with former AG Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and "spent about 30 to 45 minutes conversing alone" with him at a public event hosted by the Japanese Embassy in Suva.

"Turaga says the DPP did this when files concerning Voreqe Bainimarama, Sitiveni Qiliho and Sayed-Khaiyum were with the DPP," fijivillage.com reported.

"He says this is an alleged act of misconduct or misbehaviour."

Siromi Turaga

Siromi Turaga Photo: Fiji Govt

Dockets on high profile cases

Earlier on Thursday, Pryde's office released an update on the progress of police complaints involving high-profile individuals, who included Rabuka, former prime minister Bainimarama and Sayed-Khaiyum.

Others on the list were the suspended police commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho, former CID director Mesake Waqa, former elections supervisor Mohammed Saneem, Rural and Maritime Development Minister Sakiasi Ditoka, and the Methodist Church of Fiji president Ili Vunisuwai.

"When the police complete an investigation following a complaint, the file is often sent to the ODPP for further advice or decision on charge," the ODPP said.

"Once the file has been received by the ODPP registry, it is allocated to a legal officer to provide a formal advice. The file is then forwarded to a manager before recommendations are given to the DPP for final decision."

Its office said that sometmes during this process, the file is sent back to the police for further investigation, and sometimes the file is sent back to the legal officer to provide further legal advice on aspects of the evidence.

The ODPP said the process could be onerous, but it was crucial that the decisions were not made in a hurry "and the right decision is made based on the evidence according to the law."

"A charge is only ever filed if there is a reasonable prospect for conviction, and it is in the public interest."

According to Turaga, the decision to suspend Pryde was made prior to his office releasing the statement.

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