King agrees to set up royal commission to investigate Tonga’s passport scandal

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His Majesty King Tupou VI assented to a move by Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva’s government to establish a Royal Commission to investigate the Tongan passport scandal.

This has been confirmed to Kaniva News by Tonga’s Minister of Police, Hon Pōhiva Tuʻiʻonetoa.

Hon Tuʻiʻonetoa said when the new government approached the king recently and asked for His assent to the commission His Majesty told them he had already approved the Royal Commission in 2014.

But the former government delayed establishing the commission because they had queries about it and wanted to make another proposal to the king.

The former government was ousted in last Novermbers’ general election before the royal commission was set up.

Dr Tuʻiʻonetoa, who was talking to us from the Cook Islands last week while attending a meeting said they expected to meet in two week times to set up the commission.

Kaniva previously reported that:

Tuʻiʻonetoa, Tonga’s former General Auditor believed the commission’s inquiry would help bring many answers to questions that had gone unanswered for years regarding the sale and issuing  of Tongan passports particularly to foreigners.

The Tongan passport scandal  

Hon. Tu’i’onetoa told Kaniva News  last year that a passport scandal allegedly involving the Prime Minister’s office in 2014 was one of  the two biggest he had come across in the past three years.

His claim came after audited documents leaked to New Zealand media, including Kaniva News, showed a table headed “Summary of holders of ordinary passport with no naturalisation certificate during audit period”.

A list of 12 Chinese nationals was then displayed  in the table.

The documents also noted that when the auditor asked the Immigration Department to explain why Chinese nationals were being given Tongan passports without holding naturalisation certificate as the law requires, he was told “the direction was given from higher authority.”

 No law

When the Auditor’s office urged the Attorney General to charge the people involved, his office said they could not do anything because there was no law that could be used to launch a prosecution.

Tongan passports were issued illegally to Asians in the 1980s. In 1999 the sale of the Tongan passports was stopped, with the government saying it had sold almost 7000 passports to Asians for almost US$40 million (TP277 million/NZ$181 million).

The termination of the sales came after ‘Akilisi Pohiva, who was then an opposition Parliamentarian, launched a lawsuit against the government for selling the passports. The government then changed the kingdom’s constitution to allow the sale.

The then king, King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV, decided the money needed to be invested overseas, saying that if it was deposited in Tonga “the government would only spend it on roads.”

The money was invested in a number of overseas funds at the suggestion of financial adviser Jesse Bogdonoff, a former Bank of America official who had been named as the king’s jester. In still disputed circumstances, most of the money that had been invested in the Tongan Trust Fund was lost.

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  1. FAKATOKANGA: Oku ʻikai ngofua ke hiki tatau (cut and paste) ʻa e ongoongó ni ʻo pulusi ʻi ha feituʻu taʻe maʻu ha ngofua mei he Kanivá

    Kuo mokoi e finangalo ʻo ʻEne ʻAfió Kingi Tupou VI ke fokotuʻu leva ʻa e komisoni fakatuʻi ki hono fakatotoloʻi ʻa e paasipooti Tongá mo e ngaahi fakamatala kau ki ai kuo hoko ko e vālauʻanga ʻ o e fonuá he laui taʻu.

    Ko hono fakapapauʻi ʻeni ʻe he MInisitā Polisi ʻa Tongá, Dr Pōhiva Tuʻiʻonetoa ki he Kanivá he uike kuo ʻosí.
    Pehē ʻe Tuʻionetoá ko e taimi ko ē ne fakataufolofola atu ai e puleʻangá ki he tama tuʻí ke fokotuʻu ʻa e komisoní ne folofola mai ʻa e tamá ke faiʻaki pe ʻene tuʻutuʻuni ke fokotuʻu ha komisoni ʻi he 2014 ke fakatotoloʻi ʻa e paasipōtí.
    Ka ne ʻomi ia ki he puleʻanga ki muʻá ke fakahoko ʻa e komisoni fakaʻekeʻeke fakatuʻi ko ʻení ne nau toe ʻoatu ʻenau fokotuʻutuʻu ʻa kinautolu ia ki he tuʻí pea talu ai feʻunga mo hono tuku ki tuʻa e puleʻanga ko ia he fili ʻi Nōvema 2014 ne teʻeki pe lava e komisoní.

    Ne pehē foki ʻe Tuʻiʻonetoa ki muʻa ʻoku tui ʻa e kapinetí ko ha fakaʻekeʻeke ʻe fai ʻe he komisoní ʻe tokoni ia ke ne vakili mai e ngaahi tali ki he ʻū fehuʻi kuó teʻeki fai hano tali he ngaahi taʻu lahi fekauʻaki mo hono fakatau mo e ngaahi tukuakiʻi kuo fai ki he paasipooti Tongá.
    Naʻe fakahā ʻe ʻOnapolo Tuʻiʻonetoa ki he Ongoongo ʻa e Kanivá ʻi he taʻu kuo ʻosí fekauʻaki mo e ngaahi fetukuaki kau ki he paasipōtí ne pehē tokua ne kaunga ki ai ʻa e ʻōfisi ʻo e Palēmiá ʻi he 2014 ʻo ne pehē ko e taha ia he ua lalahi taha kuo ne fou mai ai ʻi he taʻu ʻe tolu ki muʻá.

    Ne ne fai ʻa e lau ko ʻení hili ia ha mama mai ha ʻa ha ngaahi fakamatala fakapepa fakaʻātita ki he mitia ʻa Nuʻu Sila ní ʻo kau ai e Kanivá, pea naʻe ʻasi he ngaahi fakamatala ko iá ha tēpile ʻoku tohiʻi ʻi ʻolunga ʻo pehē: Ko hono hiki meʻa lalahi atu pe ʻeni ʻo kinautolu ne nau maʻu ʻa e paasipooti angamahení kae ʻikai haʻanau setifikeiti liliu kakai lolotonga e taimi ne fai ai ʻa e ʻātitá.

    Naʻe lisi leva ai ha hingoa ʻo ha kau Siaina ʻe toko 12.

    Naʻe toe ʻasi foki ʻi he pepa fakaʻātita ko ʻení ha pehē ko e taimi ko ē ne ʻeke atu ai ʻe he ʻātitá ki he Potungāue ʻImikuleisiní ko e hā ne foaki ai ki he kau Siainá ʻa e paasipōtí Tonga ʻikai haʻanau tohi liliu kakai hangē ko ia ʻoku fiemaʻu ʻa e laó , ne fakahā mai ia ko e tuʻutuʻuni pe ia mei he mafai māʻolunga.

    Ikai ha lao:

    Ko e taimi naʻe teke ai ʻe he ʻĀitá ʻa e ʻōfisi ʻo e ʻĀteni Senialé ke fakaʻilo ʻa e niʻihi ko ia ne nau kaunga ki he foaki paasipooti taʻe maʻu ha tohi liliu ko ʻení ne fakahā ange ia ʻe ʻikai lava ia ke fai ha meʻa ki ai koeʻuhī naʻe ʻikai ha lao ia ke fakaʻiloʻaki.

    Naʻe fakatau taʻe fakalao ʻa e paasipooti Tongá ki he kau ʻĒsiá ʻi he 1980 tupú. ʻI he 1999 ne taʻofi ai ʻa hono fakatauú ʻo pehē ʻe he puleʻangá kuo aʻu ki he paasipooti ʻe mei 7 afé ne fakatau atu ki he kau ʻĒsiá pea tānaki mei ai ʻa e mei paʻanga ʻe $277 miliona.

    Naʻe fakangata ʻa e fakatau ko ʻeni hili ia hono fakaʻilo ʻe ʻAkilisi, taimi ia ne kei fahaʻi fakaanga aí, ʻa e puleʻangá ki hono fakatau atu ʻo e paasipōtí.

    Ne mokoi leva e tuʻi ʻo e ʻaho ko iá Kingi Taufaʻāhau Tupou IV ke ʻave ʻa e paʻanga ne maʻu he fakataú ʻo ʻinivesi ʻi muli ʻo pehē ka tuku ia ʻi Tonga ʻe tanu halaʻaki ia ʻe he puleʻangá.

    Naʻe ʻinivesi leva ia ʻi he ngaahi founga fakahū paʻanga kehekehe pe ʻi muli ʻi ha faleʻi ʻa e tangata ko Jesse Bogdonoff ko ha tangata ngaue ki muʻa he Pangikē ʻo ʻAmeliká peá ne iku ui foki ʻe he tuʻí ko ʻene tama fakakata. Ko e lahi taha ʻo e paʻanga ni ʻa ia ne ne ʻinivesi ʻi ha talāsiti ne ui ko e Talāsiti Paʻanga Tongá, kuo mole ia ʻi ha ʻātakai ʻoku kei kikihiʻi pe hono alungá.