4 Apr 2011

Tonga shipping company's lawyer outraged at size of Ashika fine

5:32 pm on 4 April 2011

The lawyer for the Tonga government owned Shipping Corporation of Polynesia, says it has no ability to pay a huge fine handed down by Justice Robert Shuster for its role in the Princess Ashika Disaster.

The company was convicted on five counts of sending an unseaworthy ship to sea and one charge of manslaughter by negligence.

Lawyer for the company, Vuna Faotufia, says it's about to be wound up and has no money to pay the two million pa'anga, or 1.07 million US dollars in fines.

He says Justice Shuster was wrong to use a recent British case as the benchmark when deciding what size fine the company would get.

"How could he compare a case in London with a case here in Tonga - corporate manslaughter. To me this is outrageous. As a matter of fact there are a lot of Court of Appeal decisions here, you cannot charge someone more than he could or she could be able to pay. That is an injustice in itself. And the company itself is about to fold. The reason the company is still in operation is just for this case."

Vuna Faotufia says they will appeal.