18 Jan 2006

Tonga's speaker in court on bribery charge

2:25 pm on 18 January 2006

The Speaker of the Tongan Parliament, Veikune, and two other men have pleaded not guilty to charges of bribing customs officers allegedly in an attempt to evade import duties on half a container of rum.

On the second day of the trial by jury, Noble Veikune, 'Amini Tu'ivai and 'Aisea To'a stood accused of bribing and conspiring to bribe custom officers for the release of a container containing 600 cartons of Fijian Bounty Rum, which arrived in Nuku'alofa from Fiji in 2003.

Veikune is charged with bribery of a government servant, with two alternative charges of conspiracy to commit bribery of a government servant and knowingly attempting to evade customs laws.

A total of 17 witnesses will be called during the trial, which is expected to run for two-weeks.

The jury trial is presided over by the Chief Justice, Robin Webster.