Supreme Court says Akosita and ‘Etuate Lavulavu have a case to answer in school fraud trial

The Minister of Infrastructure Akosita Lavulavu and her husband ‘Etuate Lavulavu have to defend themselves against allegations of defrauding over half a million pa’anga from the government’s schools subsidiary funding.

‘Etuate Lavulavu (L), Akosita Lavulavu. Photo/ Kakalu ‘O Tonga newspaper (cropped)

The Lavulavus will have to take the stand after the lawyer for ‘Akosita, Lawyer William Edwards, and ‘Etuate, who is representing himself  failed to obtain an acquittal after arguing last week there was no case to answer.

Justice Nicholas Copper has made this decision on Monday 10.

He was quoted by the Matangi Tonga Online as saying, “On the arguments, as analysed and in relation to each defendant and every count they both face, there is a case made out to the required standard, that is to say there is some evidence that a reasonable jury if they accepted it, properly directed on the law, could convict, Justice Cooper said”.

The couple have pleaded not guilty to charges relating to knowingly dealt with forged documents and obtaining credit by false pretences.

The investigation was prompted by the Auditor General’s office claiming hundreds of students supposedly attending the UNTRI could not be identified and that the Institute should repay TP$553,800 to the Technical Vocational Education and Training fund (TVET).

Police charged the couple with using forged documents to support an application to obtain supplementary government funding to assist students at their UTRI private school.

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