Joint trial proposal to be heard in Sept for Lord Tu‘ivakanō, Tu‘akoi and Taulua in passport fraud charges

Tautapa e kalauni' ke hopo'i fakataha 'a Looti Tu'ivakanō, 'Isapela Satua Tu'akoi mo 'Ileana Suliana Taulua ki he ngaahi faka'ilo hia tu'unga he paasipōti'. 'E fanongoa 'a e fokotu'u ko 'eni 'i Sepitema fakafuofua ko e taimi 'eni kuo 'i ai 'a e 'Eiki Fakamaau Lahi fo'ou ke kamata ngāue 'i Tonga.

A submission to try Lord Tu’ivakanō, Isabella Satua Tu’akoi and former police inspector ‘Ileana Suliana Taulua together after they had been charged with passport offences is expected to be heard in September.

The crown submitted that the charges against the trio were closely related.

The proposal will be brought before Tonga’s new chief justice who is expected to start working in the kingdom in about two month’s time.

As Kaniva news reported last month, former Prime Minister Lord Tu’ivakanō has pleaded not guilty to a raft of charges stemming from the Chinese passports scandal.

The charges in the Supreme Court involved money laundering, bribery, perjury and fraud.

He had also denied firearms charges.

An audit of Tonga’s immigration divisions, completed in 2013, found a Chinese couple, Sien Lee and his wife, had been issued seven diplomatic passports and 15 ordinary passports since 2003.

A document alleged Lord Tu’ivakanō had received TP$199,408.94 on November 18, 2013 from Sien Lee and Ying Huang Lee while the king’s noble was the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

It said the money was given to persuade him to act in their favour and that he allowed the issuance of documents which proved the holders were Tongan travellers.

According to the document, the application was lodged by Tu’akoi with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Immigration Department.

A police taskforce was established in 2015 to investigate with help from New Zealand’s Serious Fraud Office.

The defence opposed the request for the joint trial.

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