Ha’apai governor Viliami Manuopangai Hingano was today fined in the Nuku’alofa Supreme Court after he was convicted of unlawful possession of 198kg of turtle meat.
The judge fined him a total of $12,500, the editor of the Kakalu ‘O Tonga Newspaper reported this morning.
Hingano, 46, was in possession of the turtle meat out of the shell, without it being certified by an authorised officer that it came from a turtle of legal size.
He pleaded not guilty and elected trial by judge alone.
Hingano told the court that he had no guilty intent to commit this offence and that he did not know that the law required that there be prior approval to kill a turtle.
But Judge Niu didn’t buy it.
Judge Niu said: “Having heard the accused‘s background, he being a director in the Ministry of Public Enterprises, and he had been a member of Parliament representing District 12 of Ha’apai which included Lofanga, and having grown up and living in Ha’apai, I do not believe his evidence that he did not know that an approval was required before a turtle was killed”.