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Tonga dealing with passports: Key

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 28/07/2016

Prime Minister John Key says he expects the Tongan government to deal with the issuing of illegal passports, but the Pacific nation's PM admits corruption is still an issue.

Tongan Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva and Mr Key sat down for talks following a rain-dampened formal welcome at Government House in Auckland on Thursday.

New Zealand is a major funder of the justice system, education and tourism in Tonga, and currently gives about $22 million in aid.

The unlawful issuing of real passports, including diplomatic passports, by corrupt officials in Tonga has been a long-running problem and was raised at the sit-down on Thursday.

Mr Key told reporters that although the issue was of serious concern to New Zealand authorities, he was confident the Tongan government could deal with it with assistance.

"There's a New Zealand police commissioner now working in Tonga, there's an investigation being undertaken, they're looking at the matter and we hope they come to a swift resolution," he said.

He said he believed the issue was now more "historical" and there was no evidence to suggest it was still going on.

But Mr Pohiva, who has campaigned for a stable and transparent political system in Tonga, admitted corruption was still an issue.

He said the previous government had delayed starting up an anti-corruption office for five years and the current administration was now trying to get it running.

"We have a number of serious cases for anti-corruption office to start working on," he said.

Mr Pohiva, who is on his first official visit to New Zealand since being elected in 2014, will later attend a wreath laying ceremony at the Auckland War Memorial Museum with Pacific Peoples Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga.

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