Tonga Development Bank claims Police warrant to search bank was unlawful

Tonga Development Bank says it is taking legal action against Tonga Police following a police search of the bank’s premises on Friday 24 May, where Police were acting on a complaint regarding an alleged breach of the Banking Act. 

TDB Management, in an unsigned statement said, “TDB has files legal proceedings against the Police on the basis TDB believes the warrant was obtained and executed unlawfully by the Police.” 

“We have received grave concerns from our customers and the public at large regarding a search warrant executed on TDB on Friday 24 May 2024. 

“We wish to assure our customers that your investments continue to be safe with TDB. 

“TDB has dealt with this issue through the proper channels and in a professional manner to ensure Tonga’s only locally owned bank continues to serve the Kingdom and its people. Thank you for your continued trust and support.” 

Tonga Police confirmed that they conducted a search at the TDB on Friday, 24 May, while responding to a complaint regarding an alleged breach of the Banking Act at the TDB. The police released no further details. 

It is likely that the complaint was made by the National Reserve Bank of Tonga (NRBT), who, over recent weeks, have acted to remove two top officials from the TDB. 

Issuing its own statement tonight, the National Reserve Bank of Tonga, said, “One of the primary functions of the NRBT is to regulate and supervise banks and to ensure that they promote and conduct sound and safe banking practices…. 

“We play a crucial role in keeping our economy safe, and helping Tonga grow. 

“We wish to assure the public that the NRBT remains committed to maintaining a strong and stable banking system in the country, stabilising the price of goods and services, managing our foreign reserves and exchange rates, for the benefit and safety of its customers and the Tongan economy.” 

Neither the TDB nor the NRBT have officially addressed public concerns over a reported move by NRBT Governor to sack the two top officials of the TDB last week. 

The Governor of NRBT, Tatafu Moeaki, is understood to be invoking sections of the Banking Act to barr the TDB CEO, ‘Emeline Tuita, from holding any positions in the bank, and also to remove the Chairman of the TDB Board, Peni Vea. 

Radio and social media in Tonga have reported that the Governor sent the two officials a letter saying he was concerned that the TDB was failing in its financial capacity and not meeting its obligations.