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Former Tongan Speaker Appeals To Delay Court Inquiry
Lord Tu’ilakepa faces charges over illegal firearms, drugs

NUKUALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Dec. 4, 2012) – A preliminary inquiry in an illegal arms and ammunition case against Lord Tu'ilakepa, a former Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Tonga, is now anticipated for sometime early next year, depending on the outcome of his appeal lodged on Friday last week.

Tu'ilakepa also faces other charges of conspiracy to the importation of illicit drugs.

Senior Crown Counsel Sione Sisifa said the noble is appealing to the Supreme Court against a decision by a Magistrate who upheld a request by the Crown for the preliminary inquiry on the arms and ammunition charges and drugs charges be heard separately at the Nuku'alofa Magistrate's Court.

He said the Crown requested for the preliminary inquiry on the arms and ammunition charges to be held first on 27 November at the lower court, and for the drugs charges to be deferred and stayed until the Crown was ready to proceed and the Magistrate granted the request.

"Lord Tu'ilakepa is appealing against that ruling by the Magistrate. We now anticipate the preliminary inquiry sometime early next year, depending on the outcome of appeal to Supreme Court," he said.

Separate charges

The Crown's request was granted on the basis that the arms and ammunition charges were not factually related to the drugs charges and either charge could be heard separately.

"Secondly, the Attorney General has the authority and discretion to initiate, discontinue or stay a prosecution," he said.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court office in Nuku'alofa confirmed receiving the noble's appeal on Friday 28 November, but said that no date had been set as to when the appeal would be heard.

Lord Tu'ilakepa is a current Vava'u Noble's Representative to parliament.

The multiple charges followed a transnational police investigation into illicit drugs conducted in Tonga and Australia. On December 2, 2010 Tonga Police executed five search warrants at four locations in Tongatapu and one location in Vava’u that resulted in the noble being charged.

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