By Kalafi Moala
Nuku’alofa, Tonga – The decision by Tonga’s Chief Justice Whitten to refuse an appeal request by former head of Revenue and Customs, Kulufeinga ‘Anisi Bloomfield, against an extradition order to face trial in Fiji, is blamed on confusing and indecisive letters to the Court by the Prime Minister, Dr. Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa.
Mr. Bloomfield is being charged in Fiji for theft and dishonesty alleged to have been committed during his time as acting head of the Oceania Customs Organization headquartered in Fiji for the sum of $161,506.66 and property valued at $17,757.77.
He is accused of having committed these acts from between 2011 and 2014, before he moved back to Tonga.
On 30 October 2019, Fiji’s Attorney General seeking extradition of Mr. Bloomfield wrote to Tonga’s Prime Minister requesting action on the extradition.
Prime Minister Tu’i’onetoa then wrote to the Ministry of Justice to do something about the extradition request from Fiji. And on 22 November 2019, Mr. Bloomfield was arrested by Police, and brought before the Magistrate Court in Nuku’alofa on 17 February 2020.
He was ordered by the Court to be extradited to Fiji to stand trial for theft charges. Apparently, because of diplomatic immunity he was excused from facing the other charge of general dishonesty.
In March 2020, Tonga’s Attorney General filed an appeal to the Supreme Court against the judgment order of extradition by the Magistrate Court. At the same time Mr. Bloomfield also filed an appeal to the Supreme Court against the extradition order. He had applied for a writ of habeas corpus to stop his return to Fiji but this was dismissed by the judge.
And on 9 June 2020 Justice Laki Niu of the Supreme Court declined the appeal from Mr. Bloomfield, and upheld the order by the Magistrate Court. He was also released on bail.
On 22 July 2020, Mr. Bloomfield and his counsel, Sunia Fili, informed the Court of Mr. Bloomfield’s pending appeal against Justice Niu’s judgment. Their request to appeal to the Court of Appeal carried new evidence, which was a letter from Prime Minister Tu’i’onetoa.
Dr. Tu’i’onetoa had written a letter on 1 July 2020, basically setting aside his letter of 30 October 2019 in which he wanted the Courts to do something for the extradition of Mr. Bloomfield.
Justice Niu’s decision to uphold the Magistrate Court’s order for extradition may have been based on that original letter of the Prime Minister. The change of heart of the Prime Minister as expressed in his letter of 1 July 2020 may have thrown confusion to this extradition saga and resulted in the refusal of appeal to the Court of Appeal.
The Crown has objected to any further appeal based on the second letter by the Prime Minister, in which he expressed a change of heart from his previous letter.
The Crown has also revealed that the Prime Minister wrote the Attorney General on 20 July 2020 and revoked his letter of 1 July. The Prime Minister is reported to have also met with the counsel for Mr. Bloomfield on his latest letter.
There was further disclosure from the Crown that Mr. Bloomfield visited the Prime Minister on 9 June 2020 asking him for help to stop the extradition order as he was not physically well.
As it stands now, Chief Justice Whitten has refused the application for leave to appeal Justice Niu’s order. The fate of Mr. Bloomfield’s extradition is in the hands of the Prime Minister. It seems he is the one that needs to make the final decision in response to the request for extradition by Fiji’s Attorney General.