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200+ criminal charges filed against Samoa Police Commish yet to be finalized

Apia, SAMOA — Although more than 200 criminal charges has been filed against the police commissioner the Samoa Attorney General’s office has yet to finalized them and this was revealed during the status hearing for suspended Police Commissioner Fuiavailili Egon Keil in the Supreme Court earlier this week.

Last week, Chief Executive Officer for the Ministry of Justice & Courts Administration, Papalii John Taimalelagi confirmed that 271 criminal charges had been filed against Fuiavailili. However in court Monday morning, Komisi Koria who represents the defendant stated it is “to my count 268 charges.”

It was also uncovered in court that the charges are in connection with illegal possession of firearms, intimidation along with threatening and insulting words and several charges of conspiracy to commit murder. During Monday’s hearing, Supreme Court Justice, Lesatele Rapi Vaai noted the duplication of criminal charges filed against the suspended Police Commissioner and the prosecutor noted that they have yet to finalize the charges. “What was the intention of filing 200+ charges when it will be reduce down later,” asked Lesatele and the prosecutor reiterated that they have yet to finalize the criminal charges.

There were two motions by defense heard before the court, the motion to release charge documents and the motion to release witnesses’ statements as the defense wishes to interview the prosecution witnesses. Komisi informed the court that he went down to the AG’s office and personally uplifted the documents pertaining to the charges. Lesatele again informed the prosecutor that there are four charges filed pertaining to one incident and asked why and the prosecuted again informed the court that charges have yet to be finalized.

The prosecutor noted that in the second motion in which the defense seeks the permission to contact potential witness — they are police officers. She objected and stated that the trial documents have been disclosed to the defense and he has all the list of the witness. Komisi pointed out the basis for the two applications (motions) that were filed for access to information and to the police witnesses are not because of any obligation that the defense has to the prosecution to inform how the defense would proceed but because of tampering with evidence. “We have filed affidavits of our applications how the police have on numerous occasions tampered with evidence.”

Lesatele asked if the defense has received the statements from the police officers who are witnesses in this case and Komisi said, yes. The Supreme Court Justice noted that the statements are sufficient however Komisi “begs to differ” and noted that the rule of professional conduct under the legal practitioners actually confirms and provides guidelines to allow for all parties to witnesses, but for the defense they have to inform the prosecution that they will be questioning the witnesses. Regarding the criminal charges, Komisi stated that to his count there are 268 criminal charges and a large number of those charges relate to the same incident and will be in an inconvenience to the court to go through each and every count when they are duplications.

Lesatele asked the prosecutor if the Attorney General’s office will be hiring an independent prosecutor and she said that it’s unclear at the moment. She informed the court that the finalization of the charges should be completed by next week Monday. Meanwhile in other police news, more police officers have been suspended within the Samoa Police Force, according to the Police Spokesperson Su’a LeMamea Tiumalu however he declined to specify who was suspended and why. Last week the Police cancelled their usual weekly press conference and no reason was given.

Radio New Zealand reports that four members of the Police force had since been suspended, superintendent, a police corporal and two police constables. According to the RNZI the officers suspended are the lead investigating officers in the more than 200 criminal charges against the suspended Police Commissioner, Fuiavailili Egon Keil.

Su’a told Samoa News to call back however when the call was returned he didn’t answer. Last month, Cabinet stepped into the police dilemma and the reshuffle has landed police back under the scope of Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi. Prior to that the cabinet moved to suspend Assistant Police Commissioner Samoa Mulinuu Mulinuu, the same day Fuiavaili’ili was also placed on suspension when he turned up to work after the previous case against him was dismissed by the court.