A Supreme Court judge in Tonga has dismissed a lawsuit by a man who demanded his land in Ha’akame, Tongatapu back after he was deported from the USA in 2020.
La’ie Oahu Toutai, 61, took the defendants, ‘Ōniki and ‘Ēseta Save to court after they repeatedly declined his requests to vacate his allotment.
Court document showed Toutai became the lawful holder of the town allotment named Talifolau on 23 October 1987 before it was lawfully registered under his name on 4 June 2015.
He however went to the U.S in 1988 and did not return to Tonga until February 2020. When he left in 1988, the allotment was left in the care of his mother, Mele’ofa. Mele’ofa later left for Australia.
In 1998, Mele’ofa returned to Tonga and her cousin ‘Eseta and her husband ‘Oniki and their three children came to visit her. Mele’ofa offered the allotment to them and ‘Eseta accepted it.
“Mele’ofa then told them that they could have the allotment as theirs because La’ie, the plaintiff, would not return to Tonga”.
Saves argue they owned the land
The Saves argued in court that they “have an equitable right to possess and occupy the allotment, and or alternatively, the plaintiff is estopped from evicting them from the allotment”.
In his ruling in favour of the Saves, Justice Niu said he was confident Toutai was well aware of the defendants occupying his land and keeping it as theirs.
“I also find as a fact that the defendants believed that the allotment was theirs, and that they built on it and lived on it in a substantial way as far as their means and circumstances could afford because they believed it was theirs.
“They built on it permanently and extended it substantially.
“On those facts, I consider that the equity defence of estoppel applies.
“I therefore come to the conclusion that the defence of estoppel of the defendants succeeds”.
Toutai told the court he “was deported from the US for “abusing his children”.
In November 2013, The Herald Journal, Utah, reported that a man by the name Laie Toutai pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted aggravated sexual abuse of a child in Utah, USA,
Toutai, who was 52 at the time, was arrested in September after a teen girl told police he had sexually abused her, reported the Herald.
Toutai was charged in 1st District Court with 15 counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child, a first-degree felony offense.
He agreed to a negotiated plea settlement in which he pleaded guilty to two of the 15 counts.
In 2014 Toutai was ordered to spend three years to life in the Utah State Prison.