Tongan police charge Lord Tu’ivakanō with bribery in passport saga probe

Lord Tu'ivakano ... found guilty in Tongan passport case. Image: Kaniva News

By Kalino Latu, editor of Kaniva News

The king’s noble and former Prime Minister, Lord Tu’ivakanō has been charged with passport offences, money laundering and bribery.

Police arrested the former Speaker of Parliament yesterday.

“Lord Tu’ivakanō has been charged with numerous crimes, including making a false statement for the purpose of obtaining a passport, perjury, acceptance of bribery and money laundering,” Police Commissioner Steve Caldwell said.

Kaniva News reported last year that Lord Tu’ivakanō and his wife, Joyce Robin Kaho, had been listed by the Tonga National Reserve bank as being allegedly involved in suspicious money transfers.

It followed with a claim by a former staff member at Parliament that Lord Tu’ivakanō used parliamentary staff to improperly transfer money overseas. The noble denied the claim.

“If that was illegal you know which place to take it up with. Anyone in the office of the Parliament is free to do the same thing,” Lord Tu’ivakanō said in response to the former staff.

Passports abuse
Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva told the House during a debate in 2013, while he was leader of Opposition and Lord Tu’ivakanō was Prime Minister, that he had information that Tongan blank passports were being abused.

He described the mishandling of the Tongan blank passports as a “net that was thrown outside the circle of the Tongan authorities”.

In 2014, Kaniva News revealed e-mails between staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which alleged Lord Tu’ivakanō ignored King Tupou VI’s warning not to issue any more diplomatic passports to Chinese national Sien Lee.

According to the e-mails, Sien Lee is a close friend of the Queen Mother.

At the time, the former Auditor-General, who is now Minister of Finance, Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa, told Kaniva News Tonga’s passport scandal was one of the two biggest he had come across in the previous three years.

This morning the Police Commissioner said that although he was confined by what he could say publicly, he took the opportunity to thank and commend the Passport Taskforce for their methodical and professional investigation.

“As criminal charges are now before a Court of Law no further comments
will be made at this time. The Passport investigation continues.”

Asia Pacific Report republishes Kaniva News reports by arrangement.

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