NZ top lawyer hired: Fituafe ‘hopeful’ she will still win against Deputy PM appealing his bribery conviction case

    Tongan plaintiffs and defendants are awaiting decisions by the Appeal Court over a number of appeals against electoral bribery convictions of some of the top leaders of the country.

    Former MP Māteni Tapueluelu and NZ Barrister Dr Rodney Harrison

    Unsuccessful candidate Fane Fituafe said she was confident she would still win over the Deputy Prime Minister’s appealing against his bribery conviction case.

    Deputy Prime Minister Poasi Tei was found guilty of bribery and the Supreme Court decision also annulled his election victory in May.

    Tei, the Minister of Meteorology, Energy, Information, Disaster Management, Environment, Climate Change and Communications (MEIDECC) stood against Mrs. Fane Fituafe.  Tei was declared the winner and Mrs. Fituafe then brought an election petition before the Supreme Court, claiming that Tei violated the electoral regulations either directly or by allowing another person, Saia Penitani, to act on his behalf.

    Fituafe claimed that the election was invalid because Tei had contravened Section 21 of the Electoral Act. She claimed that  he committed bribery indirectly by another person by giving valuable gifts of 20 plastic water tanks to electors in the village of Houma to influence them to vote for him.

    Tei had been granted a stay in the execution of his judgement, until his appeal was heard and determined.

    Fane Fituafe (R – L) PTOA Core Team Leader Semisi Sika, Lautala Tapueluelu and former MP Māteni Tapueluelu.

    Fituafe told Kaniva News unless the outcome of the appeal would be different she “thinks” she would still win.

    “It was okay”, she said, responding to when she was asked about her feeling about her lawyer’s submission.

    “I ‘m hopeful I will win. The judges raised just a minor issue with the standard of proof but it was addressed by Harrison in his Memorandum he sent to the judges”.

    New Zealand top lawyer

    Fituafe and unsuccessful candidate Māteni Tapueluelu engaged the New Zealand prominent Lawyer Dr Rodney Harrison QC to assist them in the appeal cases.

    It comes after Tapueluelu asked the Supreme Court to overturn the successful result of his rival candidate, the Minister for Finance Tatafu Moeaki on the grounds that Moeaki had committed bribery.

    The court ruled in favour of Tapueluelu and found Moeaki guilty of two offences of bribery under section 21 of the Electoral Act. Moeaki appealed his conviction.

    The Appeal Court’s Special Session held on July 28-29 heard seven appeals via audio visual link with the Presiding Justices from abroad. 

    The appeal cases included another unsuccessful candidate and former MP Siaosi Pohiva appealing a decision against his successful rival MP candidate Tevita Puloka.

    Another appeal case was between former Prime Minister Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa and his rival candidate Kāpeli Lanumata after Tu”i’onetoa was convicted for electoral bribery.

    There was also another appeal case between the Minister for Internal Affairs and his unsuccessful rival candidate Pīveni Piukala as well as another case between unsuccessful candidate and former Deputy Prime Minister Sēmisi Sika and MP ‘Uhilamoelangi Fasi.



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