20 May 2003

Tongan court acquits three over alleged letter forgery

11:51 am on 20 May 2003

A court in Tonga has acquitted three people, including two politicians, of sedition charges relating to a disclosure about the king's alleged secret off-shore wealth.

Member of parliament 'Akilisi Pohiva, fellow MP 'Isileli Pulu and Mr Pohiva's son Po'oi faced a total of 11 charges over the publication of a mysterious Palace Office letter, which the government claimed was a forgery.

In January last year, Mr Pohiva's Tonga Human Rights and Democracy Movement newspaper Kele'a published what it said was a 1991 letter from the late palace secretary, 'Ofa Tu'i'onetoa, allegedly detailing 350 million US dollars held by the king in offshore bank accounts.

A month later, police arrested the three men, claiming Pooi Pohiva had forged the letter and that the other two had gone along with it.

Akilisi Pohiva says he is pleased with the court decision.

But he says he still doesn't not know whether the letter was genuine.