Tongan passport fraud charges dropped
Charges against two Chinese nationals in Tonga had to be dropped after it was found sections of the Passport Act had never been proclaimed into force.
Passport fraud charges against two Chinese nationals in Tonga have been dropped because the legislation that made their actions illegal was not properly put into force.
Min Wang was charged with possession of a forged passport, use of a forged passport and possession of an unlawful passport, while her male co-accused Nai Yan Cheung was charged with abetment.
The Solicitor General, Aminiasi Kefu, says amendments to the Passport Act were made in 2003, but never properly proclaimed by the Ministry of Immigration.
He told Mary Baines because of poor record keeping, a fire in 2006 which destroyed the original legislation, and a similar passport fraud case not happening before, the omission was not discovered until now.
AMINIASI KEFU: They were dropped because they were charged under amendments to the Passport Act, amendments that were passed by Parliament in 2003, but unfortunately were never proclaimed to come into force since they were enacted. So technically those offenses were not part of the Passport Act in which we could lay those charges.
MARY BAINES: Right, so does that mean these people can't be charged at all?
AK: That's correct. So basically, the charges have been withdrawn from them in the Magistrates Court. They were about to be committed to the Supreme Court but then when we realised what had happened, we advised the police that the charges had to be withdrawn. One of the accused persons is still under investigation for offenses that do currently exist under the Passport Act, and investigations are still continuing on that in regards to making a false declaration in application for a Tongan passport.
MB: So the other person will get off completely?
AK: That's correct. Well, the nature of the offending was that there was a person that was brought over who did not really speak good English, and the other person was basically a facilitator, that was the allegation against them. So there's no further interest in that person. But the person who actually made the application used a false name so we're looking into investigating that to confirm that.
MB: So between 2003 and now have there been similar cases or is this the first?
AK: This is the first one.
MB: Right, and that's how it slipped through the cracks?
AK: That's correct. It's good that we realised that it hasn't been proclaimed. It's very rare that legislation has not been proclaimed, but it's basically just an oversight from the Ministry, and also because of the absence of our records we are not able to confirm that it was part of the original legislation. However we are in the process of consolidating all the amendments, and that also includes the amendments in 2003. It may have been that the Ministry just overlooked to proclaim it, bring it into force, and we also lost our records when our office was lost during the fires of the riots in 2006. It's just that we didn't realise the legislation of 2003 was never brought into force. It's something that can happen, but by better record keeping and also trying to bring legislation into force when they are required, it shouldn't happen in the future.
MB: What happens now? Will that piece of legislation be amended so that those sections can be proclaimed?
AK: Well basically yes. So the Ministry of Immigration who's in charge of that piece of legislation will now have to take it up to the necessary authorities to recommend that it be brought into force.
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