Princess Pilolevu Tuita

An unnamed party was standing behind Tongasat and funding its appeal against a ruling that the transfer of nearly US$50 million to the company was illegal, the Supreme Court has been told.

Lord Chief Justice Paulsen said he inferred this from the evidence placed before him and was one of the factors in ordering Tongasat to pay a TP$15,000 security deposit into the court before its latest appeal could be dealt with.

He said there was a significant risk that if costs were awarded against Tongasat they would not be paid.

Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva, who began the long running legal battle with Tongasat when he was leader of the opposition, asked the Supreme Court to rule that Tongasat must put a TP$15,000 security deposit.

Tongasat has applied for permission to call for evidence from four witnesses and said if this was granted it would seek a re-trial.

Lord Chief Justice Paulsen said the case would come before him again on May 3.

By then he would have ruled on Tongasat’s request to call further evidence.

As Kaniva Tonga news reported at the time, in August and September last year the Supreme Court ruled the transfer of US$49.9 million to Princess Pilolevu’s company was illegal.

Lord Chief Justice Paulsen said Tongasat’s appeal was really an attempt to secure a new trial.

 “Tongasat has  already had its case heard and adjudicated upon after a lengthy trial before the Supreme Court,” the judge said.

“In addition, the appellant has benefited by the impugned transactions, received a very large sum of grant aid funds and has divested itself of those funds in their entirety.

“It has commercial interests at stake in this litigation.”

In his evidence to the supreme court, Hon. Pohiva said Tongasat was “an effective shell…an insolvent and worthless company.”

He said the company had a history of refusing to honour court orders for costs made against it.

“I seek an order staying pursuit by Tongasat of all aspects of its appeal until it has provided security for my costs,” Hon. Pohiva said.

He said that based on the evidence, Tongasat had long since been stripped by Princess Pilolevu of all significant financial assets, including Tongasat’s share of the first and second tranche payments.

He said the company’s outside backer would be unlikely to pay costs should a ruling go against Tongasat.

Judge Paulsen said Tongasat’s financial condition appeared to be “parlous” and there was good reason to believe that the appellant would not be  in  a position to pay costs on this appeal should it be required to do  so.

The Court therefore ordered Tongasat to pay TP$15,000 to the court as security by March 15.

If the money is not paid Tongasat’s application to overturn the ruling will be put on hold.

Unlawful

Last week we reported that former Minister of Finance Sūnia Fili, who leaked the news of the unlawful transfer of Chinese money to Princess Pilolevu and her satellite company, has now claimed part of the money was intended for Tongasat.

Fili said while he was Minister of Finance he was given an agreement document which said the government of Tonga and Tongasat had agreed to split the TP$90 million 50 percent each after deducting taxes.

The main points

  • An unnamed party was standing behind Tongasat and funding its appeal against a ruling that the transfer of nearly US$50 million to the company was illegal, the Supreme Court has been told.
  • Lord Chief Justice Paulsen said he inferred this from the evidence placed before him and was one of the factors in ordering Tongasat to pay a TP$15,000 security deposit into the court before its latest appeal  could be dealt with.
  • He said there was a significant risk that if costs were awarded against Tongasat they would not be paid.

For more information

Supreme Court issues declaration on legal status of main points in Tongasat case

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