The Princess, the PSA, Pohiva and the Chinese millions set to go back to court

The millions of dollars transferred to Princess Pilolevu’s Tongasat company look set to come under scrutiny in the courts again.

In the latest episode in the long running legal battle between veteran Tongan politician ‘Akilisi Pohiva and the Princess, the Court of Appeal quashed a Supreme Court order ordering the plaintiffs in a previous case brought by Pohiva to each pay TP$20,000 as a surety before the case continued.

Now Pohiva’s co-plaintiff, Tongan Public Service Association General Secretary Mele ʻAmanaki, has told Kaniva News that they were waiting for the court to set a hearing date for their civil action against the Princess, her Tongasat company and others.

Pohiva, who is now Prime Minister, filed a criminal action against the Princess when he was Leader of the Opposition following revelations that her private company had been paid millions of dollars from a Chinese government grant in 2011.

The money was transferred to Tongasat by the previous government. It came from a US$49.9  million aid grant that was described as being to help the “economic and technical developments” of the country.

Documents seen by Kaniva News show the Princess requested that the money be transferred to help revive her Tongasat company.

Pohiva first went to the magistrate’s court in 2013 and accused the Princess, Tongasat, former Minister of Justice Hon. Clive Edward and Former Prime Minister Lord Tu’ivakano of committing crimes of larceny and receiving stolen property.

The Democratic Party founder claimed the accused were involved in the illegal transfer to Tongasat of US$25 million (TP$54.87 million) from the Chinese grant.

The lower court quashed Pohiva’s action, but he appealed the magistrate’s decision before Chief Justice Michael Scott in the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Lower Court, saying the magistrate made the right decision after he found Pohiva had failed to provide concrete evidence that could prove beyond doubt the accused committed the alleged crime.

Pohiva then acted together with the Public Service Association and hired his long-time lawyer from New Zealand, Dr Rodney Harrison, in July 2014 to take the defendants back to court through a civil action.

Tongasat’s legal team then appealed that the plaintiffs paid a surety before the civil action was allowed to proceed.

The four judges in the Court of Appeal ruled that Mr Justice Scott made an error in his exercise of discretion against the plaintiffs.

The Appeal judges said the Chief Justice considered the financial positions of the plaintiffs as part of his decision before allowing their action to be heard in court on the grounds that they might not be able to pay costs in favour of the respondents.

The Appeal Court said the respondents alleged the PSA was insolvent which could mean it would be unable to pay costs. However, the Appeal judges said the Tongasat legal team had failed to provide evidence to prove their claim in this regard.

Tongasat also set out to show that Tonga’s Democratic Party in which Pohiva was leader had no funds and that he would be unable to pay costs if they were set against him.

“But they overlooked the fact Pohiva had made himself personally responsible for any costs,” the Appeal judges said.

“His personal assets, such as they may be, are available. The Supreme Court was given by the respondent no information on his personal position. The respondents also did not suggest to the court that he personally was not good for costs,” the Appeal court said.

The main points

  • The millions of dollars transferred to Princess Pilolevu’s Tongasat company look set to come under scrutiny in the courts again.
  • In the latest episode in the long running legal battle between veteran Tongan politician ‘Akilisi Pohiva and the Princess, the Court of Appeal quashed a Supreme Court order ordering the plaintiffs in a previous case brought by Pohiva to each pay TP$20,000 as a surety before the case continued.
  • Now Pohiva’s co-plaintiff, Tongan Public Service Association General Secretary Mele ʻAmanaki, has told Kaniva News that they were waiting for the court to notify them when they could file their civil action against the Princess, her Tongasat company and others.
  • Pohiva began a series of legal actions against the Princess in 2012 following revelations that her private company had been paid millions of dollars from a Chinese government grant.

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