Scot under investigation in Tonga over pension cash

A Scottish QC and former Conservative politician is under investigation by a regulatory body in in the South Pacific amid allegations a six-figure sum is unaccounted for in its pension fund, The Scotsman can reveal.
Lord Ramsay Dalgety faces an inquiry over claims more than  £300,000 is missing from fundLord Ramsay Dalgety faces an inquiry over claims more than  £300,000 is missing from fund
Lord Ramsay Dalgety faces an inquiry over claims more than £300,000 is missing from fund

Lord Ramsay Dalgety stepped down last week from his position as chief executive officer of the Tongan utility watchdog, citing his advancing years and poor health.

However, the 72-year-old has been asked to disclose information about the transaction history of several bank accounts which, his successor claims, contain more than £300,000.

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It has also been alleged that Lord Dalgety’s employment contract promised him an unlimited term in office and was approved without the knowledge of authorities.

The Scot, who is commissioner and chairman of Tonga’s Electoral Commission, said the allegations were “unfounded in fact and in law”.

With the country set to go to the polls next month for only the third time since the monarchy’s near-absolute grip on power was loosened, the editor of a pro-democracy newspaper said the issue was of “national concern”.

The veteran legal figure, originally from Dundee, served as a Tory councillor in Edinburgh between 1974 and 1980. He was appointed a QC in 1986 and went on to serve as a temporary sheriff in the Scottish judiciary.

Since moving to the Polynesian archipelago in 1991, he has enjoyed a succession of prestigious appointments, including chief justice of Tonga, an acting justice in the Supreme Court, and company secretary of Tonga’s MBF Bank.

In 2008, he was appointed a law lord and given the title of Lord Dalgety of Sikotilani Tonga by the late King George Tupou V, a position which granted him membership of the sovereign state’s privy council.

But two years later, he was charged with perjury over evidence he gave to a Royal Commission into the 2009 sinking of the MV Princess Ashika ferry, which claimed the lives of 74 people, including Daniel MacMillan, a 48-year-old from Islay.

Lord Dalgety was secretary of the firm which operated the government-owned ferry. An official report into the disaster described him as an “evasive” character who “clearly lacks integrity and honesty”, and who was “unfit to hold such an important position”.

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The inquiry, which heard evidence of the Scot’s “exorbitant” spending on first and business class travel in his role at the Electricity Commission, also criticised him for failing to order an independent survey before the purchase of the ferry, which he admitted had been a “rust bucket”. It added that “he has no respect for concepts of good governance or corporate ethics”. However, the Tongan life peer was cleared in 2012 after the court case against him was thrown out due to insufficient evidence.

Lord Dalgety has been CEO of the Electricity Commission and its predecessor since 2002, but stepped down last Monday. Paula Tupou, a member of the commission’s board and a former oil company executive, has been appointed interim CEO and is carrying out the investigation.

In an e-mail, Mr Tupou said he has asked Lord Dalgety for details of transactions across 11 term deposit accounts, believed to have a cumulative worth of around 885,000 Tongan pa’anga (£307,000).

He explained: “Dalgety is using the bank’s requirement that those who set up the accounts are the only ones who can request the release of information from the bank.

“Now that Dalgety is now longer an employee of the commission, the information can be released to his replacement.”

Mr Tupou, who is pressing MBF Bank for access to the commission accounts, said the documents would determine “whether there is money missing”.

Dr Pohiva Tui’onetoa, Tonga’s finance minister, said the Electricity Commission has asked Lord Dalgety to produce information about the “ins and outs of the fund,” and explained that the investigation was also scrutinising “various irregularities” in his contract with the commission.

A copy of Lord Dalgety’s two-page contract, seen by The Scotsman, states that his role “shall continue in force and effect, without limit of time”.

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Over a series of e-mails, Lord Dalgety, now a naturalised Tongan, told The Scotsman he had retired from the Electricity Commission. He said: “For the avoidance of any doubt whatsoever, no money has gone missing from the pension fund. The accounts of the fund have been audited each year by an experienced firm of chartered accountants since 2012, always with an unqualified audit report.”

He provided the covering page of the audited accounts for the commission’s pension fund for the 12 months to 31 December 2016, which he said had “satisfied” three quarters of the fund’s trustees. However, he did not respond to The Scotsman’s request to see the fund’s audited financial statements in their entirety.

He said his terms and conditions of his employment were ratified in 2008, stressing that “there is nothing ‘fake’ whatsoever” about the contractual arrangements.

He added that he has engaged legal counsel, who are considering defamation proceedings, with warning letters issued to Mr Tupou. “The matter is now sub-judice,” he explained.

Tonga Police and finance minister Pohiva did not respond to enquiries.