Silika Hala has had all four charges against her dismissed in the Supreme Court today, after the Attorney General’s office motioned to withdraw the criminal charges of criminal libel and thefts as a servant.
This is in relation to the case involving eight other former staff behind a scheme where tickets purchased through Samoa Sportslotto were not being transmitted.
The scandal first surfaced when Silika Hala, sacked by the government-owned entity in June 2020, publicly exposed the scam on social media with claims alleging tickets purchased through Samoa Sportslotto for the Australian Lotto, were not being transmitted and were invalid.
Hala is one of three accused that stood trial this week, before his Honour, the Chief Justice Satiu Simativa Perese.
However midway through the trial, Prosecutor Lupematasila Iliganoa Atoa made an application this morning before the Court to withdraw the charges, due to the lack of evidence in support of the charges.
The application was accepted by Chief Justice Satiu; and then an elated Silika Hala and her lawyer, Fuimaono Sarona Tuala were excused from the Courtroom.
Outside Court Ms Hala was a relieved woman.
Accompanied by her lawyer, Ms Hala was emotional when telling Samoa Global News that she can now finally move forward and leave the past behind.
“It hasn’t been easy. I was the one that exposed the [alleged] scheme happening at the Lotto Office, but in turn, I was being charged for speaking out. In the end, the truth will always come out. I am thankful to my family and especially my lawyer [Fuimaono]. If it wasn’t for her, I’d probably still be in court right now,” she said while fighting back tears.
Defense Counsel Fuimaono Sarona told Samoa Global, this matter has been hanging over her client’s head for over two years.
“This is the second hearing date. The first one in May, 2021 but it was postponed due to the electoral petitions and it was rescheduled to this week..
“And when it came to the hearing, the [prosecution] didn’t have the originals of the documents of the evidence. That is one of the reasons for the withdrawal.. because they were unable to locate the original documents to prove the charges against her. I think they made the right decision,” said Fuimaono.
As reported earlier, the first witness to take the stand was Sportslotto IT Officer, Laau Tuivanu, with an explanation of how the system was allegedly defrauded.
Tuivanu testified that the accused had discovered a fault in the system where unregistered tickets could still be printed for customers. The IT Officer explained that if the system shut down unexpectedly while a receipt was being printed, the transaction would not transmit to Australia, and the ticket therefore not be registered. However, when the system was relaunched, the same receipt would continue to be printed.
The unregistered tickets would then still be given to unsuspecting customers, who walked away having paid for tickets that were in fact, not transmitted to Australia at all.
There are five co-defendants who had already entered guilty pleas in September last year to the charges of theft for amounts ranging between $400 and $2,300 tala. Telesia Lina Bourne of Luatuanuu, Tamara Brown of Toomatagi, Masela Moananu Masoe of Vaitele-Uta, Ulalia Sulufau of Leulumoega-Tuai and Pio Paepae of Ulutogia Aleipata all escaped jail time when they were convicted and fined by the Supreme Court in March this year.