Princess Salote Pilolevu Mafile'o Tuita

The Appeal Court has refused Tongasat an application to present new evidence in an appeal against a decision handed down against it last year.

Following a seven day trial in August last year, Lord Chief Justice Paulsen declared that a payment  of $US24.45 million received by the Kingdom from the Peoples Republic of China in 2008 was a grant and therefore counted as public money within the  Public  Finance Management Act.

He also declared  that a second payment   of $US25.45 million received by the Kingdom from the Peoples Republic of China in  2011 was a grant and therefore public money within that Act.

As Kaniva news reported at the time, this meant the payment of tens of  millions of dollars of Chinese grant money to Princess Pilolevu’s satellite company was declared illegal by the court.

The court said Tongasat was not entitled to the money.

Lord Chief Justice Paulsen’s ruling  was in favour of the action brought by the Public Service Association (PSA), Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva and Kingdom of Tonga.

Tongasat – formally known as the Friendly  Islands Satellite Telecommunications Ltd – appealed the judgment and asked the court for permission to produce new evidence.

New evidence can only be introduced if the court grants permission on special grounds.

Tongasat wanted to produce affidavits   from  Lord   Matoto,  Sunia   Fili, ‘Aisake Eke and ‘Aholotu Palu.

Lord Matoto was the Minister for Finance in September 2008 and was appointed on behalf  of  the  Kingdom to  go  to  Beijing  and  sign  an  agreement  with  the   Peoples Republic of China that provided for the two payments in question.

Sunia Fili was the Minister for Finance at the time of the second payment. He gave instructions to the Reserve Bank for the disbursement of the funds

‘Aisake Eke was the Secretary of the Department of Finance at the time of the first payment and ed to Lord Matoto.

‘Aholotu Palu was head of the Budget Division of the Ministry of Finance in 2011 when the second payment was received.  He was aware of the pending payment and its intended disbursement to the appellant.

The Appeal Court said fresh evidence could be accepted only if it could be shown that the evidence could not have been obtained with reasonable diligence for use at the original trial; that it was likely to have an important influence on the result of the case and that it was credible.

The Court said none of the evidence was discovered for the first time after the trial.

“The role and involvement of the new witnesses was known in 2008 and 2011, the witnesses were living in Tonga and available to be interviewed here,” the Court report said.

“There was no practical, legal or ethical impediment to them being approached to give evidence in the trial.”

The appeal was therefore dismissed.

The main points

  • The Supreme Court has refused Tongasat an application to appeal against a decision handed down against it last year.
  • Following a seven day in August last year, Lord Chief Justice Paulsen declared that the payment  of tens of  millions of dollars of Chinese grant money to Princess Pilolevu’s satellite company was illegal.
  • Tongasat appealed the judgment and asked the court for permission to produce new evidence.

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