Convicted Akosita Lavulavu paid salaries of up to $30,000 while attending trial, until when seeking leave from Appeal Court confirmed

    Convicted Cabinet Minister and MP Akosita Lavulavu was expected to receive an estimated amount of TOP$30,000 when she was out of office to attend her fraud trial and while deciding whether to seek leave to appeal her Supreme Court conviction in more than two month’s time.

    This money from the government’s coffers cannot be paid back to the Ministry of Finance even if Akosita’s seeking leave to appeal is dismissed, a source who was familiar with the government’s salaries said.

    It is believed Akosita has been paid more than TP$7500 by the government as her normal salary. The money was meant for her to stay in her office and perform her ministerial duties or to represent Vava’u 16 in Parliament.

    She is expected to remain in office until July 2 when the Supreme Court is expected to lay down her sentencing. This means that in another 28-day period, Akosita is expected to receive payments of about  $5000 in total.

    After her sentencing it is anticipated that she will stay in her government office for another 42 days, during which time she is expected to apply for permission to appeal against her Supreme Court conviction. This means she is expected to receive another total of TP$7500 payment for this period.

    If she lodges an appeal, it could take another 42 days or longer before she faces the Appeal Court. This meant she is expected to receive another payment of  about TP$7500 for that period.

    Our source said Akosita’s Cabinet and parliamentary salary was around TP$1250 a week on top of her other allowances and entitlements.

    Bail conditions

    As we reported previously, the Lavulavu couple have been released on bail after their conviction.

    The conditions of the bail included requiring the couple to report into the central police station every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and they are prohibited from leaving the mainland Tongatapu .

    Akosita and her husband, ousted former Cabinet Minister and MP ‘Etuate Lavulavu, were both found guilty for obtaining TOP$558,600 by false pretences.

    The conviction included three counts of knowingly dealing with forged documents.

    Public outrage

    Prime Minister Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa is being heavily criticized after he repeatedly refused to take immediate action against Akosita. He told Kaniva News last week Akosita will remain in office until an appeal application is expected after July 2. It will take another 42 days to process that appeal application.

    There were calls for the prime minister to use his common sense and stand her down to keep the good reputation of the government and the king’s dignity.

    The prime minister has been slammed for using the Holy Bible and clause 23 of the constitution to defend his controversial decision to keep Akosita in office while at the same time the constitution clause 51 has given him a prerogative power to force her to resign.

    The Prime Minister now is facing another backlash after it was clear Akosita was still receiving her full pay from the government since the first day she was in court to face her fraud charges.

    Tu’i’onetoa maintained his decision was fair to allow Akosita to go through the court’s due process and if the appeal court upholds the Supreme Court’s decision than he will make his final decision.

    But critics lashed out with many saying he was two-faced and he appears to have changed his stance against the Lavulavu saga from time to time.

    Tu’i’onetoa previously defended Akosita by hiding behind the principle of innocent until found guilty. When Akosita was convicted he said the constitution clause 23 gave her another chance until her appeal is complete.

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