AID SAYS TONGA KING MADE DEAL WITH RUSSIAN MAFIA

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SUVA, Fiji (Pacnews, May 2) - A senior aide to Tonga's King
Taufa'ahau Tupou has reportedly told a court that the monarch signed a deal with
reported Russian Mafia figures to get three ex-Soviet helicopters into the
kingdom in 1996.

A report in the banned Times of Tonga newspaper says the claim
was made by the king's former personal secretary, Etueni Mo'ungaloa. The report
says Mo'ungaloa was testifying in the Tongan Supreme Court, where three men -
including democracy campaigner Akilisi Pohiva - face charges of sedition over
claims that the king hid $US350 million outside the country.

Earlier this month, the king, who controls the government, had
the New Zealand-based Times of Tonga banned for a third time, alleging that the
publication was seditious.

So far, the trial has gone unreported in Tonga.

The Times of Tonga says Pohiva produced a letter in court
allegedly showing that Mo'ungaloa wrote to a Russian group, on Palace
stationery, guaranteeing a $US520,000 down payment for the purchase of three
helicopters.

May 5, 2003

Pacific News Agency Service:
http://www.pacnews.org/index.html

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