The Nukuâalofa Supreme Court has approved on August 16 a TOP$593,264.39Â settlement with Church of Tonga known as Siasi Tonga Houâeiki in a matter Â related to a former president and six other clergies allegedly misappropriated the churchâs funds.
Both sides reached the settlement after the plaintiff, Reverend Sione Toâa Tongaâonevai son of another former president of the church took the defendants to court claiming they unconstitutionally transferred the funds to a financial business known as Mana.
The matter was Â first brought up at the church’s conference in May 2011 while Rev Dr Tevita Feke Mafi was the president.
Rev To’a Â reportedly told the conference Â Mafi registered Mana Â under his own name together with his brother. Â He also said aÂ Â branch of the company established in New Zealand was Â registered Â under the name of Mafi’s niece.
At the time the church members thought the services belonged to the church because they were operated from the church’s offices.
Mana was operated as a moneylending service but ran into financial difficulties after the borrowers failed to pay back their loans. It means the church’s money has Â never been repaid.
The six clergies got involved because they were ministers of various parishes at the time when Rev Mafi allegedly ordered them to make donations from the church money to help fund Â the Mana.
They were Â Salesi Mafi of Ngeleâia, Penisoni Mafi of Halaleva, Sione Finau Kaati of Ngeleâia, Siosifa Mahe of Kolofoâou, Sitiveni Mafi of Pangai Haâapai, Satini Taufalele of Haâafeva, Haâapai and the Church of Tonga.
The settlement document states âthe second defendant, Salesi Mafi is dismissed from his actionâ.
âAll the remaining defendants, except the eighth defendant (the Church of Tonga) are jointly and severally liable and shall pay to the eighth defendant (Church of Tonga) damages in the sum of $593,264.39,â the document says.
The âsaid damage shall be paid, without interest, by no later than the 16th August 2018â.
âCosts of the plaintiff in these proceedings in the sum of $30,000 shall be paid by the above stated remaining defendants, except the eight defendants , to counsel for plaintiff upon the making of these ordersâ, it says.
The plaintiff was represented by counsel Laki Niu and the defendants were represented by counsel Petunia Tupou for Â Dr Rodney Harrison QC from New Zealand.