24 Oct 2018

Tongasat wants retrial to hear new evidence

6:52 pm on 24 October 2018

The company which manages Tonga's orbital space wants fresh evidence to be called and a re-trial conducted regarding a case involving nearly $US50 million.

Sentinel-5P satellite.

Photo: Supplied/European Space Agency.

The payments were made to Tongasat after China was found to have placed a satellite in Tonga's orbital space in 2006.

However, in August the Chief Justice deemed the funds Tongasat received was public money and payments were not approved by government.

His judgement ruled the payments made between 2008 and 2011 were "invalid and unlawful" and granted Prime Minister 'Akilisi Pohiva and the Public Service Association legal costs which have yet to be finalised.

However, Tongasat claims the ruling was not satisfactory because it excluded evidence, including from former cabinet ministers.

Their appeal, filed last week, says the Chief Justice erred because he did not hear testimony from two Ministers of Finance, Lord Matoto and Sunia Fili, nor former Prime Minister, Lord Sevele.

Evidence from two senior finance officials also forms part of the appeal, including from former Secretary of Finance 'Aisake Eke.

The appeal claims the evidence from those parties, show that the money was a result of a negotiated commercial transaction between Tongasat and its Chinese counterpart and there were government agreements approving the transactions.

The parties said the money was not aid or grant money and was always intended to compensate Tongasat.

Matoto, Sevele, Mr Fili, Mr Eke and senior civil servant 'Aholotu Paul say as they weren't asked to give evidence in the initial case, their reputations and the integrity of their advice and decisions has been called into question without any ability to represent themselves.

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