Three ministers have been disqualified and ordered to step down by the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga (FWCT), as a result of probably the biggest financial scandal in the history of the church.

The improprieties had to do with the Pulela’ā Church in Sydney, Australia, where the church building was repossessed by the Westpac Bank, and later sold to a Hindu group in 2012.

Millions of dollars of the church money was “lost” in the process and also five other church properties used for security were taken over by the bank.

The leaders of the church during that time included ordained ministers Viliami Tu’akoi, Matafonua Fotofili, and Sione Pinomi.

They are the leaders accused of the financial problems that befell Pulela’ā, and they are the ministers that are being disqualified by the FWC in Tonga.

When the bank took over the church properties, the FWC organization in NSW was deregistered.

The Church authorities in Tonga have tried to communicate and bring the three ministers to a tribunal exercise but to no avail.

The annual 92nd Conference of the Church in Tonga passed a decision that the three ministers must be brought to account.

However, after seven months of waiting for a response, the Church at a meeting of the Committee for Ministers on 3 March ordered their disqualification.

In a letter addressed to the three ministers, the Secretary General of the FWCT, Rev. Dr. Tevita Havea, wrote – “Once you receive this letter, you no longer have the authority to be ministers of the church under the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga’s Constitution.”

It is also reported that this may be just the first decision of a number of steps to bring the men to account. There may be legal actions taken against them later.

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