Member of Tongan Parliament Arrested

Member of Tongan Parliament Arrested

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A member of the Tongan Parliament has been arrested for investigation into forgery of birth certificates and other documents that would aid immigrants in establishing U.S. citizenship.

The man's brother, who served four months in jail for forgery, said the allegations were false and the authorities had confused the brothers.

Etuate S. Lavu Lavu, 45, was stopped by police at Salt Lake City International Airport on Wednesday as he was attempting to board a 12:40 p.m. flight to Los Angeles, airport spokeswoman Barbara Gann said. The arrest was made by investigators from the Utah Attorney General's Office with the assistance of airport police.

Lavu Lavu is being held without bail in the Salt Lake County Jail.

Lavu Lavu is a former resident of Orem and still has family living there, including his parents and brother. He left Utah about five years ago for Tonga, where he was elected to Parliament in 2000 for a three-year term.

His brother, Sam Lavu Lavu, said Thursday that the charges against Etuate Lavu Lavu were false and that authorities have confused the two brothers. Sam Lavu Lavu said he was convicted of forgery charges in 1998 and that he served slightly more than four months in the Salt Lake County Jail. Jail records confirmed that he was in the jail for forgery from March 16 to July 22 in 1998.

"This is not (Etuate's) problem," Sam Lavu Lavu said. "I'm the one who did it; he was never involved."

Police may have learned Etuate Lavu Lavu was in Utah after he appeared on Tala Koula, a Tonga public affairs radio program that airs each Tuesday night on KRCL. He spent 30 minutes talking about Tongan government affairs, host Ivoni Nash said.

Nash said Lavu Lavu has been working to establish a dual-citizenship law for Tongans who want to also be citizens of the United States. She said Lavu Lavu, who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, discussed his work in Parliament and other Tongan political issues at a fireside in a Tongan ward in Provo on Sunday.

About 10,000 Tongan nationals live along the Wasatch Front, according to Bill Afeaki, director of Utah's Office of Pacific Islander Affairs. Afeaki said he has met Lavu Lavu but does not know him well.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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