Tongan Supreme Court convict’s passenger who tried to board flight to Fiji with undeclared money

NUKU’ALOFA, 02 APRIL 2019 (KANIVA TONGA NEWS) – A passenger who was found with nearly TP$149,000 (US$65,851) stuffed into his trousers and strapped to his leg has been convicted in the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court convicted Qian Xiyun for failing to declare to Customs that he was carrying more than TP$10,000(US$4,419) of currency.

Qian originally pleaded guilty to the charge and elected trial by judge alone in relation to other charges. Clive Edwards appeared for him at trial which began on March 18 this year.

At the start of the trial Edwards aid he would argue that the accused had wrongly pleaded guilty to an offence the Crown could not sustain in law.

The prosecution arose out of events that arose at Fua’amotu International Airport on May 15 last year at the passport control booth at the departure terminal.

A customs officer was processing departing passengers for a flight to Fiji when the accused approached her after completing security screening by aviation officers.

He handed the customs officer his passport and passenger departure card. He declared on his departure card that he was not carrying more than $TP10,000 (US$4,419) in cash, or its equivalent in foreign currency.

The officer asked him several times whether he was carrying cash, to which he kept replying that he was not. However, under repeated questioning, he eventually admitted that he was carrying large sums of money in Tongan, US, and other currencies.

The custom officer called in a more senior colleague who continued questioning the accused who initially denied that he was carrying more money, but eventually removed more cash from his trouser.

At this point a male office was called in and more money was found strapped to his leg.

In his report on the case, Acting Chief Justice Cato said the money was worth about TP$149,000.

The more senior of the Tongan female customs’ officers said that she had asked him about further money and he had pulled out wads of money and placed them on the table.

He said the accused had produced more money in his hand which he had held out and had asked to go on the plane.  She took this to amount to a bribe.

In his ruling, Acting Chief Justice Cato ruled that the guilty plea had been carried out under the appropriate legislation and must stand.

“The accused is duly convicted of failure to declare he was carrying currency over TP$10,000 contrary to section 97 of the Customs and Excise Management Act,” Justice Cato said.

The accused was also originally charged with two counts of bribery of a government official and money laundering.

These charges were all dismissed.

Justice Cato is still to sentence Qian.

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