Dispute over multimillion dollar transferred to Princess Pilolevu, Tongasat heads to Supreme Court

Ko e fakakikihi fakalao ko ia he pa’anga ‘Amelika ‘e $25,450,000 miliona na’e ‘ave ia ‘e ha pule’anga Tonga ki mu’a kia Pilinisesi Pilolevu mo ‘ene kautaha satelaite Tongasat e kamata ia ‘i he fakamaau’anga lahi’ ‘i Nuku’alofa he Mōnite kaha’u’. Ko e pa’anga ni ne totongi ia he tokoni ‘a Siaina ki Tonga ‘i Mē 2011 pea totongi ai pe he ta’u tatau ki he Pilinisesi’ mo e Tongasat ta'e 'ilo ki ai 'a e Fale Alea'. Na’e ‘i ai ‘a e ngaahi ‘uluaki totongi ia ki mu’a ‘i he mahu’inga lau miliona meimei tatau pe ki he Pilinisesi’ mo ‘ene kautaha’ mei he silini tokoni ai pe ko eni mei Siaina' ka kuo ‘ikai lava ke toe ‘eke’i ‘a e pa’anga ko ia’ tu’unga he kuo ‘osi e ta’u fakalao ne tonu ke ‘eke’i ai’. ‘Oku hopo’i ‘eni ‘e ‘Akilisi Pohiva tokoni ki ai ‘a e PSA talu mei he 2013 ‘i he’ena tui ko e ‘ave pa’anga ko ‘eni’ na’e ta’efakalao fakatatau ki he lao ki hono tokanga’i e pa’anga ‘a e pule’anga Tonga’

The dispute over a payment of US$25,450,000 made by a former Tongan government to Princess Pilolevu Tuita and her Tongasat Satellite company will be heard in court on Monday next week.

The money was paid by the Republic of China to the Government of Tonga in May 2011 and paid to or for the benefit of Tongasat in around June of that year.

Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva argued that the payment to or for Tongasat was unlawful within the meaning of the Public Finance Management Act.

Hon Pohiva, who began the case in 2013 when he was in opposition, and the Public Service Association (PSA) wanted Tongasat and the Princess to pay back the money to the government.

Kaniva News understands the lawyer for Hon Pohiva and PSA, Dr Rodney Harrison from New Zealand has arrived in Tonga this evening.

The hearing on Monday comes after Hon Pōhiva won a legal fight with Tongasat in May 2017 over the refusal of the company to release documents regarding the transfer of the money.

At the time, the Lord Chief Justice Owen Paulsen ordered that Tongasat and the Kingdom of Tonga clearly state what documents they had relating to the transfer of Chinese money to Princess Pilolevu’s company.

Tongasat argued that it had an Exclusive Agency Agreement with the Kingdom to market and manage the licensing and  frequency  assignments of orbital slots registered by the Kingdom with the International Telecommunications Union.

In its submission to the Supreme Court it claimed a dispute had arisen with China Electronic System Engineering Company (CESEC), a corporation associated with the People’s Republic of China (PRC), over its unlawful use of the orbital slot at 130°E.

Tongasat said it concluded on behalf of the Kingdom a settlement with CESEC under which CESEC would pay US$49,900,000 in two tranches of US$24,451,000 on 31 July 2008 and US$25,449,000 on 31 December 2010 and that Tongasat was to receive 50%  of  the  first  payment and, subject to further negotiations, ·50% of  the  second  payment.

Tongasat alleged that at the request of CESEC and the Chinese government the money was recorded as aid grant money and not as settlement of the dispute.

This was for reasons of ‘State discretion,’ but in the knowledge that it was really a payment for the unlawful use of the orbital slot.

The judge criticised the satellite company’s defence.

“The logic underlying Tongasat’s statement of defence is sometimes difficult to follow,” he said.

“There are important pieces of the jigsaw missing.”

For further information

The Princess, the PSA, Pohiva and the Chinese millions set to go back to court

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