Lavulavu couple appeal sentencing, lodge second bail bid after previous application refused

    The fraudster Lavulavu couple are reported to have appealed their six-year imprisonment sentencing after they have been sent to jail on Friday July 2.

    ‘Etuate Lavulavu (L), Akosita Lavulavu (second to left) are being led from the Supreme Court to a prison vehicle. Photo/VPON Media (Facebook)

    A report by VPON Media said the appeal by Akosita and ‘Etuate Lavulavu had been lodged last week on Thursday 1.

    The report said lawyers for the Lavulavu have also sought bail for the couple pending their appeal hearing.

    It is understood the couple were previously refused request following their conviction to allow ‘Etuate to leave Tongatapu and travel to Vava’u.

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    According to Tongan law, the Lavulavus could be granted bail if the court is satisfied that — there is a reasonable prospect of the appeal succeeding; the appeal is unlikely to be heard before the whole or a substantial portion of the sentence has been served; and there are substantial grounds for believing that, if released on bail (whether or not subject to conditions) he will surrender to custody without committing any offence whilst on bail.

    The appeal by the Lavulavus came after the Appeal Court in 2019 refused Tongasat company’s application to present new evidence in an appeal against a decision handed down against it.

    Tongasat – formally known as the Friendly  Islands Satellite Telecommunications Ltd – appealed the judgment and asked the court for permission to produce new evidence.

    New evidence can only be introduced if the court grants permission on special grounds.

    However, the Court said none of the evidence was discovered for the first time after the trial.

    “The role and involvement of the new witnesses was known in 2008 and 2011, the witnesses were living in Tonga and available to be interviewed here,” the Court report said.

    The Tongasat appeal was therefore dismissed.

    Lavulavu sentencing 

    Former Cabinet Minister and MP ‘Akosita has been sentenced to six years in  prison.

    However, the Supreme Court suspended the last 12 months of her sentence  for two years on condition that she comply with the probation officer, satisfactorily complete a life skills course and commit no offence punishable by imprisonment.

    Her husband, who has a long record of  court appearances and convictions, will serve the full six years.

    Both defendants were convicted on three counts of obtaining money by false pretences.

    They were found guilty of fraudulently obtaining money from the Ministry of Education and Training by lying in applications for money from the Technical Vocational Educational Training Grant about the number of students enrolled at their private college, the ‘Unuaki ‘o Tonga Royal Institute.

    Mr Justice Cooper, presiding, said, he utterly rejected their claims that the money was used for the Institute.

    The judge said they could have been charged with theft.

    The court was told the Lavulavus had committed a carefully executed fraud over several years that amounted to a serious breach of trust.

    Mr Justice Cooper told the court a pre-sentence report on ‘Akosita said there had been no attempt to repay the money, that she still maintained her innocence and showed no remorse.

    The judge said ‘Akosita had supplied false references, something the pre-sentence report described as “an act of dishonesty which further proves her true character.”

    Mr Justice Cooper said ‘Etuate Lavulavu’s offences were not out of character and was known to be deceitful. He posed a risk of re-offending.

    The judge said a pre-sentencing report on ‘Etuate found that he still denied the offences; showed no remorse, blamed the court for being biased and did not accept his guilt. He had offered to pay all the money back in exchange for a community penalty and being spared prison.

    “Had either defendant admitted their guilt and repaid the monies, as they seemingly can afford to do, then I would have approached this sentence in a totally different way,” the judge said.

    “Instead, Mr. Lavulavu offered what some might think sounds very much like a bribe to stay out of prison.”

    The judge said he had taken into account all possible mitigating factors to keep the overall sentence as low as I possibly could.

    “I thought long and hard about the submissions in relation to Mrs Lavulavu and her being a mother of young children,” Mr Justice Cooper said.

    “I feel I am unable to lessen her sentence despite this. It could be argued that she deliberately put her children’s wellbeing in jeopardy with her course of criminal behaviour; some might argue that was an aggravating feature to do so, I do not see it that way, but I do not lessen her sentence for that.

    “Both defendants were in this together and their sentences reflect this.”

    FAKAMATALA FAKATONGA

    Kuo ‘i ai ha lipooti ‘o pehē kuo tangi ‘a e ongo Lavulavu’ ‘i hona tautea ngāue pōpula taki ta’u ono ka ‘o ka  hili pe ta’u ‘e nima pea ‘e ‘atā ‘a Akosita ‘o malu’i angalelei ia ‘i hono toenga ta’u ‘e taha’ ‘i ha toe ta’u makehe ‘e ua ‘oua na’a’ ne toe fakahoko ha hia ngāue pōpula. Taimi tatau ‘oku pehē ‘e he lipooti ko ‘eni ‘a e VPON ‘oku kole ‘a e ongo loea ma’a ‘Etuate mo Akosita’ ke peila pe tāuhi kinaua ki tu’a ke tali ai ‘ena tangi’. Ne na ‘osi kole peila ki mu’a ke faka’atā ‘a ‘ena fefolau’aki he ‘otu motu’ mo Tongatapu’ hili hono fakahalaia’i kinaua’ pea na’e ‘ikai tali ia ‘e he fakamaau’anga’. Ko e anga ‘eni e lau ‘a e lao ‘a Tonga’ ki he me’a ko e peila ‘o fakatatau ki he kupu 4B ‘o e lao peila’. ‘E ‘atā ki ha taha kuo tautea ke ngāue pōpula tu’unga ha’ane faihia ka kuo ne tangi ‘i hono tautea’ ke ne kole ki he fakamaau’anga’ ke peila pe tāuhi ia ki tu’a kae ‘oua leva ke mahino ‘ene tangi’. Ka ‘e makatu’unga pe hano tali ‘o e kole peila’ ‘okapau ‘e fiemālie ‘a e fakamaau’anga’  ngali ‘e ‘i ai ‘a e faingamālie ‘uhinga lelei ke ikuna ai ‘a e tangi ‘oku fai’, pe ngalingali ko e tangi’ ‘e ‘ikai fakahoko leva ki mu’a hano ngāue’i kakato pe konga lahi ‘o e tautea’ pea ‘oku ‘i ai ‘a e tui mālohi ka tuku ange ki tu’a ‘a e pōpula’ ‘e foki pe ‘iate ia ki he kau polisi’ hala ke ne toe fai ha hia lolotonga hono peila ia ki tu’a. Fekau’aki mo ha tangi ‘i ha tautea kuo ‘osi fakahoko ‘e tokoni ‘a e fakatamala ko ‘eni ki ai. Na’e tangi foki ‘a e Tongasat mo Pilinisesi Pilolevu ‘i he 2019 hili ‘a hono fakahā ‘e he Fakamaau lahi ‘aho ko ia’ kuo na halaia ki hono ma’u ta’etotonu ‘a e pa’anga $90 miliona Tonga ‘a e pule’anga’. ‘I he tangi ko ‘eni’ na’e fakamahino ai kuopau ke ‘i ai ha fakamo’oni fo’ou mo mahu’inga pea ko e fakamo’oni fo’ou ko ia na’e te’eki ‘o hake  ia’ lolotonga e hopo ne iku fakahalaia’i ai ‘a e pilinisesi mo ‘ene kautaha’ kae lava ke tali ‘a e kole ke toe vakai’i ‘e he fakamaau’anga tangi ‘a e tangi ‘oku fai’. Ko e fakamo’oni fo’ou leva ne taku ‘e he Tongasat ko e pehē kuo nau toki ma’u hili enau halaia’  ko ha fuakava ‘a Looti Matoto mo Sunia Fili, ‘Aholotu Palu pea mo Dr ‘Aisake Eke. Na’e pehē leva ‘e he fakamaau’anga tangi ‘e tali pe ka ko ha fakamo’oni mātu’aki fo’ou ‘eni ‘i he ‘uhinga pe ‘e taha kapau na’e faingata’a fau ke lava ma’u ‘a e fakamo’oni ko ‘eni lolotonga ‘a e hopo ne fakahalaia’i ai ‘a e Tongasat mo e pilinisesi. Kae hili ‘enau vakai ki ai na’e pehē ‘e he kau fakamaau tangi, ko e fakamo’oni ko ‘eni kuo fakahū ange ‘e he Tongasat mo Pilolevu na’e hala ‘atā ke toki ma’u pe he hili ‘a e hopo’. Ko e fakamatala ‘a e kau fakamo’oni ko ‘eni ne ‘osi ‘i ai pe ia ‘i he 2008 mo e 2011 pea na’e ‘i Tonga pe kau tangata ko ‘eni ke nau omi ki fale hopo ‘o fakamatala ai ki he’enau fuakava lolotonga e lele ‘a e ‘uluaki hopo’. Pea na’e ‘ikai ha me’a fakalao ‘e taha ke ne ta’ofi kinautolu ke nau fakamo’oni he hopo ko ia’. Ko ia ai ne ‘ikai tali ia ke fakahoko ‘a e tangi ko ia’. ‘I hono fakahoa ‘eni ki he tangi ‘a e ongo Lavulavu ‘e ‘ikai mama’o ‘a e makatu’unga ko ‘eni’ mei ai’. Kuopau ke fakahū atu ‘e he ongo Lavulavu ‘a ‘ena fakamatala mo ha fakamo’oni mātu’aki fo’ou ‘aupito ke sio ki ai ‘a e fakamaau’anga tangi’. Pea kapau te nau tali ‘a e ngaahi mo’oni’i me’a fo’ou ko ia’ pea ‘e tali leva ke nau hoko atu ki ha hopo tangi. Pea ka ‘ikai  fiemālie kau fakamaau tangi  ki he ngaahi mo’oni’i me’a kuo fokotu’u atu ke fai ai ha hopo tangi, pea ko ‘ene leveleva’ ia.

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