Supreme Court refuses former Customs head permission to appeal against deportation to Fiji

Tonga’s former head of Revenue and Customs, ‘Anisi Bloomfield, has been refused permission by the Supreme Court to appeal against an extradition order.

Bloomfield has been charged by the Attorney General of Fiji with offences concerning general dishonesty and theft alleged to have been committed in Fiji between 2011 and 2014 when he was acting head of the Oceania Customs Organisation.

The Attorney General sought the extradite of Bloomfield to Fiji to stand trial on those charges.

On October 30, 2019, the Prime Minister issued an ‘authority to proceed’ with the extradition proceedings.

On 22 November 22, 2019, Bloomfield was arrested pursuant to a warrant issued by the Chief Magistrate.

On February 17, 2020, the Principal Magistrate decided that Bloomfield was to be returned to Fiji to stand trial only on the charge of theft and that the charge of general dishonesty could not be proceeded with because the alleged offence was committed during a period in which Bloomfield was accorded diplomatic immunity by the Government of Fiji.

On March 9, 2020, the Attorney General filed a notice of appeal against the Principal Magistrate’s decision refusing Bloomfield’s extradition on the general dishonesty offence.

Bloomfield filed an application for a writ of habeas corpus so that he could be released from the order of the Magistrate’s Court to be committed for extradition to Fiji on the theft charge.

On June 9, 2020, Supreme Court Justice Niu upheld the Crown’s appeal and dismissed Bloomfield’s application for habeas corpus. His Honour ordered that Bloomfield be committed to be returned to Fiji to be tried on both offences.

On  July 15, 2020, Justice Niu granted Bloomfield bail on the same terms and conditions granted to him on March 5, 2020 although altered in relation to reporting requirements.

Bloomfield based his appeal on a recent letter from Prime Minister Pōhiva Tu’ionetoa dated July 1 this year revoking his earlier order to proceed with the extradition.

The Crown said that on July 20 Hon. Tu’ionetoa issued a separate letter to the Attorney General in which he effectively revoked his letter of July 1.

In his second letter the Prime Minister wrote: “I, Dr. Pohiva Tu ‘ionetoa the Prime Minister of Tonga declare in this notice that I have revoked my letter of revocation dated I July 2020 pursuant the revocation of ‘authority to proceed with the order’ under s. 7(1) of the Extradition Act executed on  October 30, 2019.”

Following extensive consideration of aspects of the laws relating to extradition, Lord Chief Justice Whitten said the prospects of success of the appeal were insufficient to warrant leave being granted.

The application for leave to appeal was therefore refused.

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