11 Aug 2003

Trial of former Tongan court jester set down for March next year

9:47 am on 11 August 2003

The kingdom of Tonga and its American court jester are moving closer to a legal showdown in a long-running scandal over a vanished 26 million US dollar trust fund.

San Francisco Judge Martin Jenkins has ordered that royal jester and financial advisor Jesse Bogdonoff, who claims to be the world's only court jester, will go on trial next March.

Tonga claims that Bogdonoff defrauded the government by investing the money in life insurance policies of terminally-ill Americans.

The fund was originally created out of the sale of thousands of Tongan passports and citizenships to mostly Hong Kong Chinese in advance of China's resuming control of the former British colony in 1997.

Tonga accused Bogdonoff and one of his companies which went bankrupt in 2002, of losing just over half the money on risky investments, and siphoning off the rest in bogus fees and commissions.

Bogdonoff denies the charges and has sued several other defendants in the trust fund case.

He says he made the investments in good faith, and is a victim of Tongan court intrigue.