Allegedly Illegal Tongasat Money Transfer Case Dropped

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Magistrate finds plaintiff Pohiva unable to substantiate claims

NUKUALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, May 1, 2013) – A Nuku'alofa Magistrate has ruled there was no case to answer in accusations made against Tonga's Prime Minister Lord Tu'ivakano, the Minister of Justice Hon Clive Edwards, and a Tongan company Tongasat, headed by HRH Princess Pilolevu Tuita, who appeared before the court last week.

The indictments were brought by a member of parliament 'Akilisi Pohiva who was accusing the defendants of larceny and receiving stolen property.

Although 'Akilisi's claims were very serious Magistrate Salesi Mafi discovered that 'Akilisi could not substantiate his claims, and therefore declared that there was no prima facie case against the defendants at the Kolofo'ou Police Magistrate's Court on Friday, 26 April.

'Akilisi took the two Cabinet Ministers, the Princess and her company Tongasat to court over what he claimed was an illegal transference to Tongasat of TOP$18 million [US$10.3 million], which was part of a grant from the Chinese Government to the Tongan Government.

Matangi Tonga was unable to verify the details of Magistrate Salesi Mafi's decision, because decisions by Tongan Magistrates are not in a written format. The decisions are read out orally, and if you are not there to hear it read out, it would be difficult to know the exact decision that was passed on that day.

Later, a Press Release issued by the Government's Ministry of Justice and released through the Ministry of Information and Communications this week vilified the member of parliament who made the accusations, and among other things called it a "hopeless case."

"The defendants are now considering their position with a view to instituting malicious prosecution proceedings against Pohiva and, as advised, his parliamentary colleagues who were behind and supported this pathetic prosecution."

The defendants denied the charges and maintained their innocence and vigorously defended the matter at the earliest opportunity, it said.


Meanwhile, Tongasat had fired out against the parliamentarian with its own press statement last week.

Marketing Director Anna Ilaiu said the money, which was the subject of the charge did not and had never belonged to Pohiva.

"His ability to bring the prosecution is seriously questioned. Tongasat denies the charges as does HRH and all other defendants. Tongasat intends to vigorously and strenuously defend the charges. Pohiva bought the proceedings himself. He has never asked the police to enquire into matter nor has he made a complaint to the Crown Law office," she stated.

The case was first called at the lower court on April 22 and attended by some of the defendants, including the Princess.

Tongasat is a private company headed by Princess Pilolevu, and since its inception in the early 1990s it has acquired the exclusive right to acquire orbital slots in space for Tonga, and market them for the Tongan government.

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