News: Various issues
- TONGAN CROWN PRINCE PRODUCING TV DOCUMENTARY IN MONGOLIA
By Michael Field
AUCKLAND, New Zealand (January 18, 2002 - Agence France-Presse)---Complete
with pith helmet and goggles, Tonga's bachelor Crown Prince Tupouto'a is
making a television documentary about remote Mongolian tribesmen, the
Matangi Tonga monthly news magazine reported Friday.
In Olgivy, in the western most province of Mongolia, Tupouto'a, 53, found
locals who use eagles to hunt, according to the report, and is filming their
The royal had insisted on his "practical" pith helmet and goggles outfit to
cope with the demands of the job.
"In one day we flew in a place, drove in a jeep and rode horses in order to
reach our destination," he said, justifying the get up.
He said the documentary, "The Lost Tribesmen," started as a hobby but added,
"I now believe it owns me."
PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT
Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center
With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies/University of Hawai'i
GROWING SPECULATION OVER TONGAN KING'S SECRET WEALTH
By Michael Field
AUCKLAND, New Zealand (January 18, 2002 - Agence France-Presse)---The
83-year-old king of the impoverished Pacific nation of Tonga has US$ 350
million stashed in a secret bank account, a Tongan democracy movement
newspaper alleged Friday.
King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV's palace in Nuku'alofa declined to comment on the
latest reports published in Kele'a, a newspaper edited by commoner Member of
Parliament 'Akilisi Pohiva.
Kele'a published a palace letter commenting on the king's "personal funds"
said to be worth over US$ 350 million.
Given that the kingdom's official gross domestic product is US$ 225 million,
and the royal controlled government's latest budget just 87 million pa'anga
(US$ 23 million), it has not been explained where the money might have come
But last month the palace used the government-owned Tonga Chronicle to claim
a Tongan national living in Australia was blackmailing the king over gold
bullion allegedly taken from the 1806 wreck of an English sailing ship. The
gold was said to be worth billions of dollars.
The king has also come under severe scrutiny after his official court
jester, American Buddhist Jesse Bogdonoff, lost around 26 million dollars of
royal controlled funds taken out of U.S. Treasury bonds and put into a now
disappeared Nevada viatical investment company.
Kele'a Friday published what it said was a November 8, 1991, letter written
by the king's private secretary, then the late Ofa Tuionetoa, to a local
Japanese man, Charlie Onodera, who served as the king's financial adviser
before his death.
"I wish to confirm the arrangement made between yourself, in your capacity
as liaison officer to His Majesty, and His Majesty... this afternoon," the
letter printed in the newspaper said.
"First to promote foreign investment in the kingdom, you are to act as
financial adviser to his Majesty.
"... His Majesty's 'Top Secret' account numbers with the overseas bank have
been given to you. Please do remember that these are very confidential.
"...His Majesty's personal funds, as revealed to you, is in the vicinity of
over 350 million US dollars."
"Thank you very much again for your dedicated service to His Majesty."
The newspaper said Pohiva, who leads the pro-democracy movement in the
kingdom, had twice sought a response, on Legislative Assembly letterhead,
from the king and his staff. There was no response.
As a near absolute monarch, the king and nobles control two-thirds of the
The Tongan government referred inquiries to the king's private secretary.
E-mail questions from AFP to his address were receipted but have not been
The monthly Matangi Tonga news magazine, received here Friday, carried an
interview with the king in which the question of a blackmail attempt was put
The royal family claimed a Tongan, Josh Liava'a, now a Sydney nightclub
owner, tried to extort two million dollars from the king to keep secret
details about the shipwreck.
A decade ago Liava'a had an affair with the king's only daughter, Princess
Pilolevu Tuita, who wrote graphic love letters to him. The letters were
recently published in the kingdom.
Matangi Tonga put the blackmail allegations to the King who replied: "It is
just a story."
Matangi Tonga also asked Crown Prince Tupouto'a how the issue should be
"I am sure that His Majesty is as interested as anyone to learn about this
secret information and the only possible course of action would be to ask
Liava'a to reveal it.
"It would also be important to establish whether or not Liava'a is mentally
New Zealand/South Pacific Correspondent
Phone: (64 21) 688438
Fax: (64 21) 694035