The man who had injected millions of iwi money into Tonga’s state-owned forestry business so he can manage it under his control is at the centre of a Serious Fraud Office investigation.
The office has confirmed to New Zealand media an investigation was under way concerning Roger Pikia who heads Tahu Whaoa Trust Thursday last week, but would not comment further.
The Trust had been granted land leases and at least 50 years control over the former public enterprise Tonga Forest Products Limited.
The former Tongan company was then renamed as Aotearoa-Tonga Forest Products Limited and it was granted leases over the ‘Eua Forest Reserve, Vaitaki Sawmilling Site and Matāliku Forest Plant.
The investigation follows the raid on the headquarters of a trust tasked with cleaning up the Waikato River, as part of its investigation into the organisation’s chairman.
The Trust has received $10 million of taxpayers’ money, with the promise of $20m more over 20 years, to care for its section of the Waikato River, Fairfax Media reported.
Chief executive Eugene Berryman-Kamp confirmed the SFO arrived on Thursday.
“They were looking for information pertaining to one of their investigations, they provided us with a list, and we supplied it to them.
“My board instruction is full co-operation.”
Berryman-Kamp said Pikia remained chairman of Tarit, and chaired a meeting of the board on Monday.
Several Te Arawa elders have called for Pikia to stand down while the SFO inquiry is underway.
In November last year, the advisor to Maori King Tuheitia was investigated after he used another trust’s credit card while in Tonga, running up bills at a top restaurant and a “ladies and gentlemen club”.