Retribution lingers after forbidden royal romance

A Tongan commoner who twice scandalised the island kingdom has had enough of harassment from on-high. JOHN ANDREWS reports.

A man accused of plotting to assassinate the King of Tonga after romancing two of his daughters has broken 31 years of silence to tell of the retribution he has suffered.

Josh Liava'a, a former Auckland detective sergeant, believes Tongan authorities have taken a contract out on his life because of fallout from his relationships with two of the kingdom's five princesses and his demand for multimillion-dollar compensation from the Tongan Government over a business failure.

His claim for compensation is based on what he believes was the effective takeover of his lucrative squash export business and the breaking-up his two marriages, including one to a princess.

After he wrote seeking compensation, Tongan authorities alerted New Zealand's diplomatic protection squad of their fears that Liava'a intended killing King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV, who was to attend the Sydney Olympics.

Detective Sergeant Dave Tomoana, the officer in charge of the Auckland police threat assessment unit, contacted Liava'a, now a Sydney nightclub owner, and was satisfied that he did not represent a threat to the King.

"I had no reason to doubt him," Tomoana told the Herald.

"He allayed my fears."

Liava'a said: "There is nothing to worry about. I am not interested in assassinating the King but rather sorting out my situation with them in Tonga."

After the King left Sydney, the Tongan commissioner of police, Sinilau Kolokihakaufisi, met Liava'a.

"I told him I had been wronged for 31 years,"said Liava'a.

"I was not interested in going to the media if the authorities were prepared to settle my case.

"Since I spoke to him, I have not heard from anybody, so the time is up. I am in the mood to fight them all the way. I have enough information about the Government, about their women, to sink them."

His woes began in December 1969 when, five weeks after he married the King's niece, Princess Siuilikutapu, in Auckland, Tonga's Parliament passed a law annulling her marriage to him, a commoner.

"We were both over age [for marriage].

"They could not give a stuff. From the day they found that I married their princess in 1969, they said they would kill me.

"I believe that it was an under-estimation on my part to think that what happened in 1969 had passed into history.

"It has since transpired that these guys will never let up. I thought they might be upset and, after a few days, they would accept it.

"But after 31 years, my name and members of my family [he now has six children] have been subjected to many punishments through the actions of the Tongan Government."

Liava'a married Levaai Nancy Wolfgramm, cousin of the Olympic silver medallist boxer Paea Wolfgramm, in 1971. They returned to Tonga in 1986 and began recruiting 39 growers for his squash export business. By 1989 they had put all they had, about $560,000, into the venture.

He said the Government waited until it saw how successful they were and then gave one of his growers, a prince, and senior Government officials $1 million to run their own squash export business.

He and his second wife returned penniless to New Zealand in 1989, then separated.

Publicity in October last year about his love affair with another member of the Tongan royal family, the King's only daughter, Princess Pilolevu, brought things to a head after the contents of her 1985 love-letter him became public.

Liava'a believes someone retrieved and copied the letter from his belongings during a visit to Tonga in the early 1990s.

He has declined to comment on a report quoting unnamed sources that their affair lasted until 1996.

Princess Pilolevu has four daughters to her husband, Maulupekotofa Tuita, governor of Tonga's Vavau Island, and an adopted son.

Liava'a said he had realised that if the letter had got into the wrong hands, something bad was likely to happen.

He believes a member of the Tongan royal family or an agent held on to the letter until a suitably embarrassing time before leaking it, possibly because of a power struggle over Tongasat, a satellite communications company in which Princess Pilolevu has a major financial interest.

He had got very annoyed because, for 30 years, the Government had been kicking him around and he had, through his respect for the Princess, deliberately kept quiet about the letter.

He said enough was enough and he would settle his score with the Government.

He had no immediate plans to return to the land of birth.

"That place is so corrupt that now I would probably get charged with treason and jailed for life, if not executed."

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