Landlord sues Infrastructure Minister and husband ‘Etuate Lavulavu over allegedly forged letter to Lands Ministry claiming he agreed to allow ‘Etuate quarrying his land

Faka’ilo e Ministā ki he Ngāue Lalahi ‘a e Pule’anga’ mo hono hoa’ ‘Etuate Lavulavu tukuaki’i ki hono fa’u ha tohi loi mo fai ‘a e fakamo’oni loi. Fakahā ‘e Sione Tunufa’i Tui ‘o Ta’anea, Vava’u’ ki he Kaniva’ ne tufa atu ‘a e ngaahi tohi faka’ilo ki he ongo Lavulavu’ he ‘aho’ ni. Faka’ikai’i ‘e Tui na’a’ ne fa’u ha tohi ‘o ‘ave ki he Savea’ ke fakamafai’i ‘a Lavulavu ke tā maka mei ha 'eka 'e fitu ' ahono ‘api tukuhau ‘eka ‘e valu’mo fakatau atu ke ma’u ai ha pa’anga. Na’e toe tohi ‘a Tui ki he Savea ‘o fakahā ki ai, ‘oku ‘ikai ko ‘ene fakamo’oni ‘ana ē ne ‘asi he tohi ne taku ko ‘ene tohi ke faka’atā ‘a Etuate. Tukuaki’i ‘e Tui ko e fa’u kotoa pe ia ‘e ‘Etuate. Pehē ‘e Tui ko e kamata ‘eni ‘o ha hopo ‘e hokohoko atu ia ‘i he kaha’u’ ‘i ha ngaahi tikite kehe pe fekau’aki mo e kaveinga’ ni. Pehē ‘e ‘Etuate ki he Kaniva’ ko Tui pe ia na’a ne fakamo’oni he tohi’ pea fekau’aki mo e pehē ‘e Tui ‘oku ‘ikai ko ‘ene fakamo’oni ‘ana ē ne ‘asi he tohi pehē ‘e ‘Etuate ko e me’a he ‘oku liliu ma’u pe fakamo’oni ia ‘a Tui he taimi kotoa pe ‘oku fakamo’oni ai. Ko e fu’u maka foki ‘eni ‘oku fai mei ai e tā maka ki he poloseki tanu hala laui miliona ‘a Palēmia Tu’i’onetoa’. Kuo tohi ‘a Tui ki he Savea ‘o fakahā ki ai ke ta’ofi ‘oua na’a toe hoko atu e lisi’ ni.

A landlord in Vava’u has vehemently denied writing and signing a letter which was submitted to the Ministry of Lands and Survey telling them he agreed to allow ousted Cabinet Minister ‘Etuate Lavulavu to quarry rocks on his land.

Hon. ‘Akosita and her husband ‘Etuate Lavulavu

Sione Tunufa’i Tui said his lawyer had served legal documents on Minister of Infrastructure ‘Akosita Lavulavu and her husband ‘Etuate.

The lawsuit came after Tui learned further quarrying activities operated on seven acres of his eight acre tax allotment in Ta’anea were based on a letter he said he did not know was submitted to the Ministry of Lands and Survey three years ago.

Tui said they only agreed for ‘Etuate to lease only three acres of his land.

The letter was written on September 5, 2017 to the Ministry  telling the authority Tui had agreed to alter the lease purpose from business to quarrying.

The letter, which was written in Tongan, also claimed the reason Tui agreed to the lease was to facilitate ‘Etuate’s agreement with the Ministry of Infrastructure to provide quarrying activities.

“Not only that but also I agree to allow ‘Etuate Lavulavu and his Inter Pacific company to operate the tax allotment for quarry purpose and to sell it for profit,” the letter read.

A copy of the letter, seen by Kaniva News, was purportedly showed Tui’s signature.

Tui denial

Tui told Kaniva News in an exclusive interview this afternoon he knew nothing about the letter.

He said the first time he knew about it was when he was handed a copy by a staff member at the Ministry of Lands and Survey after he made inquiries.

“I decided to use the law to resolve our problems and this was just the beginning,” Tui said.

He said he had also taken legal action against Hon. ‘Akosita because Etuate allegedly subleased the tax allotoment to her.

In another letter seen by Kaniva News, Tui wrote to the Minstry of Lands on  January 27, 2020 and told its CEO he wanted to cancel the lease in question.

“The letter of September 5, 2017, which purported to show it was written by me was not mine. That was not my signature. And I haven’t seen any paper work like that before,” the letter read.

“We never talked about leasing and for a payemnt of $1500 per year. They were all made up by ‘Etuate Lavulavu,” Tui claimed.

Tui told the Ministry the signature he used to sign his letter of 27 January 2020 was his real signature which was totally different from the signature appeared on the letter apparently submitted to the Ministry dated on September 5, 2017.

‘Etuate’s response

‘Etuate, the People’s Party Deputy Chairman – the Party in which the Prime Minister was a founding member –  told Kaniva News Tui signed the letter and there were people who could bear witness to it.

He claimed Tui’s signature varied whenever he signed.

He claimed he did not forge the letter or falsify any documents.

‘Etuate also alleged some opposition politicians were behind Tui and wanted to defame him.

As Kaniva News reported last week, ‘Etuate came under the spotlight after Prime Minister Tu’i’onetoa revealed Inter Pacific Ltd was one of the three contractors the government awarded with contracts to supply rocks for the government’s new multimillion road project.

‘Etuate was made a Director of Inter-Pacific Limited in February 2016, but was replaced  by ‘Inoke Finau Vala in May this year.

In 2016 Tonga’s Supreme Court convicted ‘Etuate of bribery and spending over the legal limit on his 2014 election campaign.

The judge said Lavulavu was not a credible witness and that his evidence was implausible, evasive and untruthful.

Last year, the Supreme Court also ruled that ‘Etuate and Akosita must jointly stand trial on three counts of obtaining money by false pretences and three counts of knowingly dealing with forged documents.

The charges arise from an investigation of the finances of the ‘Unuaki ‘O Tonga Royal Institute, a private education provider.

Akosita was the director and ‘Etuate was the president.

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