Court approves more than half a million pa’anga church settlement

The Nuku’alofa Supreme Court has approved on August 16 a TOP$593,264.39 settlement with Church of Tonga known as Siasi Tonga Hou’eiki in a matter  related to a former president and six other clergies allegedly misappropriated the church’s funds.

Both sides reached the settlement after the plaintiff, Reverend Sione To’a Tonga’onevai son of another former president of the church took the defendants to court claiming they unconstitutionally transferred the funds to a financial business known as Mana.

The matter was  first brought up at the church’s conference in May 2011 while Rev Dr Tevita Feke Mafi was the president.

Rev To’a  reportedly told the conference  Mafi registered Mana  under his own name together with his brother.  He also said a  branch of the company established in New Zealand was  registered  under the name of Mafi’s niece.

At the time the church members thought the services belonged to the church because they were operated from the church’s offices.

Mana was operated as a moneylending service but ran into financial difficulties after the borrowers failed to pay back their loans. It means the church’s money has  never been repaid.

The six clergies got involved because they were ministers of various parishes at the time when Rev Mafi allegedly ordered them to make donations from the church money to help fund  the Mana.

They were  Salesi Mafi of Ngele’ia, Penisoni Mafi of Halaleva, Sione Finau Kaati of Ngele’ia, Siosifa Mahe of Kolofo’ou, Sitiveni Mafi of Pangai Ha’apai, Satini Taufalele of Ha’afeva, Ha’apai and the Church of Tonga.

The settlement document states “the second defendant, Salesi Mafi is dismissed from his action”.

“All the remaining defendants, except the eighth defendant (the Church of Tonga) are jointly and severally liable and shall pay to the eighth defendant (Church of Tonga) damages in the sum of $593,264.39,” the document says.

The “said damage shall be paid, without interest, by no later than the 16th August 2018”.

“Costs of the plaintiff in these proceedings in the sum of $30,000 shall be paid by the above stated remaining defendants, except the eight defendants , to counsel for plaintiff upon the making of these orders”, it says.

The plaintiff was represented by counsel Laki Niu and the defendants were represented by counsel Petunia Tupou for  Dr Rodney Harrison QC from New Zealand.

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