Ousted politician ‘Etuate Lavulavu has denied claims that documents purporting to give him permission to quarry land in Vava’u were false.
As Kaniva News reported earlier this week, a landlord in Vava’u has denied writing and signing a letter which was submitted to the Ministry of Lands and Survey telling them he agreed to allow Lavulavu to quarry rocks on his land.
Sione Tunufa’i Tui said his lawyer had served legal documents on ‘Etuate and his wife Akosita, who is Minister of Infrastructure.
The lawsuit came after Tui learned further quarrying activities operated on his eight acre tax allotment in Ta’anea were based on a letter he said he did not know was submitted to the Ministry of Land and Survey three years ago.
He said they agreed to lease ‘Etuate only three acres of his land but Lavulavu allegedly forged a new written agreement in which he told the Ministry of Lands Tui agreed to lease him seven acres.
Writing on the Kaniva Facebook page, Lavulavu said: “Kaniva thanks for the information but you should wait because soon the people will find out the truth and right. I hugely respect the information given to you. But they were untrue. The best thing to do is to take it to court so that it can resolve the disputes. Thanks.”
One reader commented: “Take it to court but leave the news alone. It was important for them to let the people know about it.”
‘Etuate Lavulavu is no stranger to courts, controversy or convictions.
In 2003 he was arrested by the FBI while trying to board a flight from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles. He was charged with falsifying immigration papers for Tongans to become American Citizens as part of a scam carried out with his brother. He pleaded guilty to two counts of illegal use of a birth certificate, but only had to pay costs.
In 2004 he began referring to himself as “professor” and said he had a doctorate from an American institution, which turned out to be a notorious “mail order” university which essentially sells degrees.
The Director of Education said at the time that the Ministry did not recognise his “professorship.”
In 2016 Tonga’s Supreme Court convicted him of bribery and spending over the legal limit on his 2014 election campaign.
The judge said Lavulavu was not a credible witness and that his evidence was implausible, evasive and untruthful.
As a result of his conviction he was kicked out of Parliament. His wife Akosita won the by-election in his electorate.
Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that ‘Etuate and Akosita must stand trial on three counts of obtaining money by false pretences and three counts of knowingly dealing with forged documents.
The charges arise from an investigation of the finances of the ‘Unuaki ‘O Tonga Royal Institute, a private education provider.
Akosita was the director and ‘Etuate was the president.