2 Oct 2002

Tonga's ship registry in more trouble

10:54 am on 2 October 2002

Tonga's controversial ship registry is in further trouble, with the Police Minister Clive Edwards claiming the man running it has disappeared with the money raised in the venture.

The government announced the closure of the registry earlier this year after Israel said its commandos had boarded a Tongan registered vessel in the Red Sea - it was allegedly carrying weapons destined for Palestinian militant groups.

And last month, Italian police reported they had arrested a group of Pakistanis linked to Al Queda who had arrived in Sicily on a Tongan registered ship.

In the Tongan Parliament Clive Edwards has claimed that the man who runs the registry, Papadopoulous Pelopidos has disappeared from the Greece-based offices and may have taken more than 300-thousand US dollars in funds.

Lopeti Senituli of the Tongan Human Rights and Democracy Movement says it's another example of a government money-making scheme gone wrong.

"This is not the first occassion where the get-rich-quick schemes of the gvernment has come to a sorry end. If you think back just late last year, in September it was made public that Mr Bogdanoff, the Court Jester, had absconded with 20 million US dollars that was supposedly in Tonga's Trust Fund, so I am not actually surprised."