By Philip Cass
Former Prime Minister Lord Tu’ivakano will be sentenced at the end of next month after being found guilty in the Supreme Court yesterday of three charges, including making a false statement for the purpose of obtaining a passport and perjury.
The offences in what was known as the Chinese passport scandal were committed in 2015, but he was not charged until 2018.
Local media reported that the jury retired at 4pm and were back in just over half an hour.
RNZ reported earlier that six charges of bribery and money laundering in relation to the issuance of Tongan passports to Chinese nationals had been dropped.
As Kaniva News reported last week, it was originally alleged that between 2013-2014, while serving as Minister for Foreign Affairs, he accepted money to issue Tongan passports to various Chinese nationals.
The amounts involved were said to range from TP$3000 (NZ$2052) to TP$199,408.94 (NZ$136,460).
These allegations were withdrawn and not heard.
Crown Prosecutor Semisi Lutui told the court, the Attorney-General had advised against proceeding with the charges.
The presiding judge, Lord Chief Justice Whitten, will sentence Lord Tu’ivikano on charges of three counts of making a false statement for the purpose of obtaining a passport, perjury and possession of 212 pieces of ammunition without a licence.
Last week, the former Prime Minister pleaded guilty to possessing a .22 rifle without a licence.
The firearm and ammunition charges stemmed from a police search of his home in Nuku’alofa on March 1, 2018.
Lord Tu’ivakano was accused of making a false statement on the grounds that on July 17, 2015 he wrote a letter to the Immigration Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stating that Hua Guo and Xing Lui were naturalised as Tongans on October 29, 2014.
On the charge of perjury, it was alleged that on December 21, 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.
He was further charged with making a false statement, in that on July 17, 2015 with the purpose of obtaining a passport for Hua Guo and Xing Liu, and with intent to deceive the Immigration Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the accused wrote a letter to the Immigration Division, stating that these two were naturalised as Tongans on October 29, 2014, and he had reasonable cause to believe that statement was misleading.
He was bailed on condition that he surrender his passport and not leave Tongatapu.
Lord Tu’ivakano is still a member of Parliament as a Noble’s Representative.
Philip Cass is associate editor of Pacific Journalism Review and a research associate of the Pacific Media Centre. This article is republished under a partnership agreement with Kaniva Tonga.