'Etuate Lavulavu

‘Etuate Lavulavu
Minister of Infrastructure and Works
In office
30 December 2014 – 29 January 2016
Prime MinisterʻAkilisi Pōhiva
Preceded bySamiu Vaipulu
Succeeded bySemisi Sika
Member of Parliament
for Vavaʻu 16
In office
27 November 2014 – 29 January 2016
Preceded byViliami Latu
Succeeded byʻAkosita Lavulavu

ʻEtuate Lavulavu (born 1958 or 1959) is a Tongan politician and former member of the Legislative Assembly of Tonga for Vavaʻu. He was stripped of his seat in 2016 after being convicted of bribery, precipitating the 2016 Vavaʻu 16 by-election. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Brigham Young University–Hawaii followed by a Master of Arts from Brigham Young University in Utah. He publicly claimed to have a PhD from the University of Edenvale, a US diploma mill,[1] and began referring to himself as "Professor".[2]

He was first elected to the Legislative Assembly in the 2002 election. During his first term he was arrested in Utah, USA in October 2003 over a 1997 immigration scam.[3][4] In 2004 he was convicted after pleading guilty to two counts of illegal use of a birth certificate.[5] In 2003 Lavulavu apologised to the House after an altercation with fellow MP ʻAkilisi Pohiva.[6] In 2004 he was suspended from Parliament for three days for disrupting the proceedings of the House.[7] He lost his seat in the 2005 Tongan general election, but was re-elected in the 2008 election.

In the November 2010 general election, standing in newly districted single-seat constituency of Vavaʻu 14, he lost his seat to Lisiate ʻAkolo, obtaining 540 votes (22.7%) to ʻAkolo's 665 (28%).[8]

Lavulavu was re-elected in the 2014 Tongan general election, but on 29 January 2016 Lavulavu was convicted of bribery by Tonga's Supreme Court for building roads as part of his election campaign and providing inducements to voters.[9] He was also found to have violated election spending limits, and his election was declared void. His wife, ʻAkosita Lavulavu, won the resulting by-election.[10]

On 3 March 2018 Lavulavu and his wife were both arrested on fraud charges stemming from their management of the ʻUnuaki ʻo Tonga Royal Institute in 2016.[11] On 4 June 2021 they were both convicted of 3 counts of obtaining money by false pretenses.[12][13] On 2 July 2021, he and his wife were each sentenced to six years in prison by the Supreme Court.[14][15]


  1. ^ "Institutions Whose Degrees are Illegal to Use in Texas". Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Archived from the original on 23 February 2015. Retrieved 16 June 2020.
  2. ^ "TONGAN 'ODD BALL' SEEKS SECOND TERM IN ASSEMBLY". Pacific Islands Report. 8 February 2005. Archived from the original on 13 March 2005. Retrieved 16 June 2020.
  3. ^ "US arrests Tonga MP over immigration scam". New Zealand Herald. 18 October 2003. Retrieved 16 June 2020.
  4. ^ "Bail granted for Tongan suspect". Deseret News. 5 October 2003. Retrieved 16 June 2020.
  5. ^ "TONGAN LAWMAKER CONVICTED IN UTAH FRAUD". Pacific Islands Report. 31 March 2004. Archived from the original on 16 April 2004. Retrieved 16 June 2020.
  6. ^ "Tongan parliament accepts apology from two members". Radio New Zealand. 19 September 2003. Retrieved 16 June 2020.
  7. ^ "Tonga lawmakers suspended for disrupting parliament". Radio New Zealand International. 29 July 2004. Retrieved 16 June 2020.
  8. ^ "Outer islands results", Matangi Tonga
  9. ^ "Tongan minister found guilty of bribery". Radio New Zealand International. 29 January 2016. Retrieved 1 February 2016.
  10. ^ "Sole woman MP elected in Tonga". Radio New Zealand. 15 July 2016. Retrieved 17 November 2017.
  11. ^ "Police arrest Minister of Internal Affairs and husband". Matangi Tonga. 3 March 2018. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  12. ^ "Lavulavu couple plundered education fund, used political connections to steal money, Judgment finds". Matangi Tonga. 4 June 2021. Retrieved 5 June 2021.
  13. ^ "Tongan cabinet minister convicted of major fraud". RNZ. 5 June 2021. Retrieved 5 June 2021.
  14. ^ "Tongan MP and former MP sentenced to six years jail". RNZ. 2 July 2021. Retrieved 2 July 2021.
  15. ^ "Judge points to serious breach of trust in Lavulavu couple's criminal offending". Matangi Tonga. 2 July 2021. Retrieved 2 July 2021.