A third former member of parliament has been jailed for three years in Fiji on corruption related charges where she claimed allowances by fraud.
Salote Radrodro was sentenced to three years imprisonment of which she will serve two-and-a-half years in jail, with the remaining six months suspended for five years.
Her sentence is longer than the two other former members of parliament already serving time on the same charges.
Fiji’s Anti-Corruption Division High Court Judge Justice Thushara Kumarage said the former member of parliament misused a large amount of public funds in a short period.
Radrodro was convicted of one count of giving false information to a public servant and one count of obtaining a financial advantage.
Following her conviction two weeks ago, she lost her seat in parliament. Radrodro was elected to the Fijian parliament in 2018 and was one of the 10 female members of parliament.
She falsely stated that her permanent residence was in Namulomulo village in Vanua Levu and stole $37,920 between August 2019 and April 2020 when she was staying at her home in a Suva suburb.
Justice Kumarage said Radrodro was a member of parliament for several years and aware of the Parliamentary Remuneration Act and despite this, she breached the Oath of Office and the Fijian Constitution.
Justice Kumarage said Radrodro has breached the trust of her voters and the Parliament.
He added the court identified its responsibility to take action to nip such conduct in the bud, protect the integrity of the Parliament and the public’s trust in the democratic system.
In mitigation, Radrodro’s lawyers submitted that due to this conviction, she had lost her integrity in the eyes of the public locally and internationally.
They claimed that as a result of the conviction, she had lost her earnings as a parliamentarian and were of the view that Radrodro had already been punished and a jail term was not warranted.
Justice Kumarage said Radrodro was deprived of her position and benefits because of her wrongful conduct and according to the laws of Fiji, she needed to be punished regardless of her designation.
Defence lawyers had told the court that Radrodro was willing to pay the money back, to which the court said that this restitution should not be used as a fig leaf with the expectation of leniency from the court when everything else had failed.
Former members of parliament Niko Nawaikula and Ratu Suliano Matanitobua are already serving jail time for the same offence where the members of parliament gave false addresses to claim travel and lodging allowance into the thousands of dollars.
A total of seven members of parliament were charged, six from the opposition and one from the government side, who were expelled as soon as the investigation came into light.