29 July 2020, District Court, Mulinuu. During a district court hearing relating to charges of possession of an unlawful firearm against a suspended police sergeant, questions arose as to the existence of a letter that would shed light on how the weapon had first come to be in the possession of the Samoa Police.
Suspended sergeant Shrikrishna Schwenke last year pleaded guilty to possession of a. 38 revolver and ammunition, which he says had been under a bed in his home for over four years. Schwenke says that the firearm was first handed to him by his then Senior Sergeant Ituau Ale Jnr, after the SIDS conference in 2015.
Schwenke told the Court that Ituau Ale Jnr handed the gun to him, and told him to take it home and test it. When he returned the next day, he said he told Ituau that the weapon seemed to be faulty, and asked if he should take it to Tagaloa Todd Iosefa, to place into the police armoury. According to the defendant, Ituau Ale told him not to submit the weapon to the armoury, but to take it home instead.
“Fai mai ou ke alu ma a’u i le makou fale sei koe fai mai”, said Schwenke.
Himself a corporal at the time, Schwenke said he had also sought the advice of then Assistant Commissioner Fauono Talalelei Tapu, who advised him to follow the instructions of his senior officer.
In Court today defense counsel Mauga Precious Chang told the Court that Ituau Ale was a complainant in this matter, and during cross examination, she questioned Ituau Ale’s motive for waiting four years to submit a letter of complaint against her client.
“Was it not because he was promoted over you, then you wrote this letter to the Commissioner?;
“Was this right after ga promote ai Krishna i luga o le TCU (Transnational Crimes Unit) over you?”
Ituau Ale responded that he wasn’t demoted, but had been transferred.
Defense questioned Ituau Ale’s testimony that the accused was present when the weapon was handed over to police.
The gun is said to belong to the father of Faalavaau Perina Sila now posted as Samoa’s Ambassador to Japan. Faalavaau had discovered the weapon in her home during her packing to move overseas and handed it into police.
Although he accepts the charges against him, Schwenke maintains that he was not present when the gun was handed in.
“I saw it for the first time when Ituau Ale gave it to me and told me to take it home and test it.”
Defense counsel told the Court that she had been in contact with Faalavaau Perina and according to Mauga, the Ambassador had already emailed a statement to assist with police investigations; and to clarify it was Ituau Ale, and not Schwenke she had dealt with.
Both defense and prosecution told the Court that they have made unsuccessful requests to Police for a copy of the said letter.
Judge Leota Raymond Schuster directed prosecution to file their response as to whether there is a letter, and if there is, to explain why there has been a delay to this piece of evidence being tendered in Court. Prosecution has until this Friday 31st July to clarify and disclose the letter.
The matter has been adjourned to 7th August 2020 for the judge’s decision on the summary of facts dispute, and for sentencing.