Judge says plaintiff’s claims in land dispute case were ‘questionable and unsatisfactory’

The Land Court has dismissed an action to overturn the validity of a lease on a tax allotment.

Sosefo Penitani challenged the validity of Lease No. 9810 registered in the name of Pohiva Uele.

The lease consists of three acres from the hereditary tax allotment he inherited after his father, Soane Penitani, who died on 13 February, 2021. The lease was registered on 26 January, 2021.

There had originally been a proposal to open a quarry on the site. One estimate put the value of the rocks in the proposed quarry at TP$2.5 million.

He claimed that the signature on the lease application was a forgery and that the lease was therefore was unlawful and of no effect.

He wanted the lease cancelled, Pohiva  removed from the allotment and ordered to pay TP$1000 a year from the date of the lease.

Sosefo Penitani claimed that Pohiva’s brother, Sione, helped his brother in unlawfully obtaining and registering Lease No.9810.  He said he filled out the lease form and witnessed Soane’s signature. 

The defence denied the signature was forged and said Sione was helping his brother in the course of his employment and his actions were not unlawful. 

Acting Lord Chief Justice Tupou told the court there was a presumption that registration was final unless it had been proven to have come about as a result of an error of law, or as a result of fraud, mistake, breach of principles of natural justice or of a promise made by the Minister or Tofi’a holder. 

Judge Tupou said he did not find Sosefo Penitani a reliable witness.

“His shifting accounts were questionable and unsatisfactory,” the judge said.

The judge said Sosefo Penitani had failed to satisfy the court to a high degree of probability required that Soane’s signature on the L9 form was forged, 

“I find there was insufficient evidence to prove that Sione Penitani ‘s conduct in filling out the lease form and witnessing Pohiva’s signature was unlawful and the case against him must also be dismissed,” Judge Tupou said. 

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