US fugitive Dean Jay Fletcher (Top Left), Kulufeinga 'Anisi Bloomfield, Runway Fijian Colonel Tevita Uluilakepa Mara, American Peace Corps volunteer Deborah Gardner who was murdered by another volunteer, Dennis Priven,

The Supreme Court ruling that the former Head of the Oceania Customs Organisation, Kulu Feinga ‘Anisi Bloomfield should be sent to Fiji is a reminder of the kingdom’s past experience of extraditions and its own attempts to have foreign suspects handed over.

As Kaniva News reported last week, the Fijian government asked Bloomfield be sent back to Fiji to be tried for the alleged offences which occurred between 2011 and 2014.

A warrant for his arrest was issued in the Magistrate’s Court of Fiji on March 27, 2018.

He was accused of using a credit card belonging to the organisation to make unauthorised purchases with intent to dishonestly obtain a sum of $161,506.66 from the OCO.

He was also charged with dishonestly obtaining computer equipment belonging to the Oceania Custom Organisation worth $17,757.77.

In his summing up Judge Niu told the Supreme Court: “I order that the accused is committed to be returned to Fiji to be tried on both the two offences of which he has been charged.”

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The Tu’i’onetoa government has endorsed a court order to hand over former Tongan Head of the Oceania Customs Organisation, Kulu Feinga ‘Anisi Bloomfield, to Fijian authorities.

Previous governments have not always responded positively to extradition requests.

Kaniva News has been told by sources in the previous government that an extradition request had been sent from Fiji to the Late ‘Akilisi Pohiva government, which did not take it to court. After being elected in 2017 Bloomfield became the CEO of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Our sources said the then Minister for Internal Affairs declined to work with Bloomfield after the late Hon. Pohiva raised the allegations against Bloomfield. Our source claimed the Pohiva government refused to approve the request without referring it to court.

A previous government refused Fiji’s request to return Lt Colonel Ratu Tevita Uluilakepa Mara, who was accused of plotting a coup. Lt Colonel Mara is a relative of King Tupou VI.

In May 2011, the Fiji Attorney General said an application for the extradition of Mara to Fiji had been sent to the kingdom’s authorities.

Mara is wanted on charges linked to plots to overthrow the then self-appointed military leader Voreqe Bainimarama.

Bainimarama accused Tongan authorities of conspiring to snatch Mara away from his country.

However, Tonga refused to extradite the Colonel, saying “the Laws of the Kingdom of Tonga do not permit His Majesty’s Government to comply with the aforementioned Extradition Request.”

Mara had been granted a Tongan passport and he is now under the protection of the king of Tonga.

Tonga has also faced problems when trying to bring foreigners accused of crimes to justice.

In 2017 the US State Department refused to return Dean Jay Fletcher who was wanted in connection with his wife’s murder.

Fletcher fled to American Samoa. He was jailed in Hawai’i for a year before a judge in Honolulu ruled that he could be extradited.

However, another judge then ordered Fletcher’s release after the US State Department said Fletcher would have faced a death sentence or life in prison and that he would not have received a defence attorney for free.

In 1976 American Peace Corps volunteer Dennis Priven murdered Deborah Gardner. He was charged, but the jury found him criminally insane. The Peace Corps worked overtime to make the story go away and persuaded the Tongan government to let him be flown to the US where he was supposed to be put in a mental asylum.

However, as soon as he reached the US, Priven’s mental state miraculously improved and he could not be committed. The Peace Corps gave him a clean record and he disappeared for years until he was tracked down by American journalist Philip Weiss.

Weiss said American officials lied to the King and Privy Council to free a vicious murderer.

The main points

  • The Supreme Court ruling that the former Head of the Oceania Customs Organisation, Kulu Feinga ‘Anisi Bloomfield should be sent to Fiji has raised questions about the kingdom’s experience of extraditions.
  • As Kaniva News reported last week, the Fijian government asked Bloomfield be sent back to Fiji to be tried for the alleged offences which occurred between 2011 and 2014.

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