Tonga Commissioner clarifies report regarding debts collected by police officers

Tongan police officers did not illegally take $400 from a woman from Ha'ateiho village, the country's police commissioner said last night.

Tonga's top policeman, Grant O'Fee, told Kaniva News the money was collected on a court issued warrant.

"It was correctly receipted by the staff and banked appropriately," O'Fee  said.

The Commissioner's comments come after Tongan newspaper Kele'a reported that Maiolo Vakalahi of Ha'ateiho village had paid two policemen $400 in traffic fines for offences dating back to 2011.

The story uncovered a dispute over whether Vakalahi had ever been to court and what appears to be confusion over who had the right to collect fines.

Vakalahi claimed she had never been issued with any traffic infringement notices and had never appeared in court on such charges.

However, Kele'a claimed court records in Nuku'alofa showed she had appeared in court in 2011 charged with traffic infringements.

Vakalahi told the paper the police officers had told her to pay the money or she would be arrested.

O'Fee initially told Kele'a that he was unaware of the incident and that court fines were normally collected by the bailiff.

Bailiffs had been under the control of the Ministry of Police, but the law had changed and they now operated from their own office in Fasi mo e Afi.

Tonga's Attorney General, 'Aminiasi Kefu told Kaniva News that payments fines for drunk driving or speeding were supposed to be made to the Magistrate's Court.

The police were not authorised to collect fines, Kefu said.

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