Nuku’alofa, Tonga – Nepituno news outlet reported today, 29 January, Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Whitten has denied an extension to the controversial court hearing of former Cabinet Minister ‘Etuate Lavulavu and his wife, ‘Akosita Lavulavu, Minister of Infrastructure. Their court date is now set for 12 April 2021.
William Edwards Jr. the legal counsel for Mr & Mrs Lavulavu asked the court for another extension until June 2021 in order for Lavulavu’s attorney, Stephen Stanton, to make travel arrangements from Australia.
However, Chief Justice Whitten noted that it has been 2 years to date since the Lavulavu court case had been continually delayed. The Justice pointed out there are flight options from Australia like the repatriation flights planned by the government as an option for Stanton.
Justice Whitten also pointed out the use of technology as another backup. There are many court cases now using Zoom during court proceedings.
It was also raised during their hearing that according to court records, Mr & Mrs Lavulavu failed to file their required paperwork back in March 2020, this was during the time of Justice Cato. They also failed to appear in court back in September 2020, according to media report.
Justice Whitten also emphasized the importance of the Court being trustworthy and carrying out its duty in a timely manner, report said. The judge pointed out, if this case is continuously delayed, it calls into the question the integrity of the Justice system and the true nature of this case.
This high-profile case involves allegations of forgery, fraud, and misused of over $500,000 government allocated money to the ‘Unuaki Royal Institute owned and run by the couple.
Mr. ‘Etuate Lavulavu is currently said to be one of the advisors to the Prime Minister and Deputy Chairman of his political party, TPPI (PAK).
Mr. Lavulavu is also involved in another pending court case with allegations of forgery over leased documents of a quarry in Vava’u.