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Former Tongan PM Lord Tu'ivakano pleads not guilty to 10 charges
6:23 pm GMT+12, 11/02/2020, Tonga

Former Tongan Prime Minister Lord Tu’ivakano has pleaded not guilty to 10 charges, five of which are for acceptance of a bribe by a government servant, at the start of his jury trial, at the Supreme Court Tuesday.
 
The trial comes nearly two-years after the accused, who is Tonga's former Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, was first charged in March 2018.
 
The accused represented by William Clive Edwards appeared before Lord Chief Justice Whitten QC and a jury empaneled on 10 February.
 
During arraignment, the accused pleaded not guilty to all of the charges on an amended indictment by the Crown.
 
This included five counts for accepting bribe as a government servant and one each for money laundering, making a false statement for the purpose of obtaining a passport and perjury.
 
The other two are for possession of an arm without a license (namely a .22 rifle) and possession of 212 pieces of ammunition without a license.
 
Particulars of accepting bribe charges alleged that on different dates between 2013-2014, the accused, while acting in the capacity as the Minister for Foreign Affairs, accepted money as inducement for the issuance of Tongan passports to various Chinese nationals.
 
The amount alleged ranged, but in one acceptance of a bribe charge, it alleged as much as TOP$199,408.94 (US$86,460) was received, while the lowest was $3,000 pa'anga (US$1,300), on another.
 
For making a false statement charge, the accused is alleged on 17 July, 2015 he had written a letter to the Immigration Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stating that Hua Guo and Xing Lui were naturalised as Tongans on 29 October, 2014.
 
The Court also heard, for pejury, the accused is alleged, that on 21 December, 2015, he made an oath in an affidavit, stating that these two were naturalised during his tenure as the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Ministry and that naturalisation Tongan passports were then issued to them, knowing this statement was false.
 
While, the firearm and ammunition charges were due to a search warrant executed by Police at his home on 01 March, 2018 in Nuku’alofa.
 
After, the Lord Chief Justice directed the jury on their role at the trial, followed by the Crown opening its case.
 
Crown Prosecutor Semisi Lutui told the Court, he intends to call 17 witnesses to give evidence, and will also submit documents as exhibits to support their allegations.
 
The Crown's first witness, a former Immigration Officer was called later in the afternoon and whose evidence continues today.
 
The trial is expected to run for four-weeks.

SOURCE: TONGA WIRES/PACNEWS


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