Further Delays as Tala Pauga Requests Recusal of Supreme Court Justice from His Case

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The fourth man charged with conspiracy to murder Samoa’s former Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, has this week requested the recusal of Supreme Court Justice Niava Mata Tuatagaloa from presiding over his case.

A dual Australian-Samoan citizen, Talalelei Pauga was finally extradited from Australia in August 2023, to face charges against him for allegedly masterminding and funding the assassination attempt on Tuilaepa and former Police Commissioner Su’a Fuiavailiili Egon Keil.

Senior Supreme Court Justice Vui Clarence Nelson told the defendants legal Counsel, Josephine Sapolu, that the request had to also be put to Prosecution, and the Courts would deliver its decision next month.

Justice Vui said with this reques would inevitably cause further delays to the Court Hearing date, and the case may be pushed to the end of the year, when overseas based Judges are in Samoa to sit on the Court of Appeal.

However, in December 2023, Justice Niava Mata Tuatagaloa had set Pauga’s hearing for the week of 18-24 March 2024.

At the time, Justice Tuatagaloa had also said the Courts would not be accepting any more delays to this long awaited case. Justice Tuatagaloa told Pauga’s lawyers that if any further delaying tactics, may result in a reconsideration of bail conditions for the defendant.

“E le toe talia e le Faamasinoga se isi mafuaaga o le a faatuai ai ona tagofia e le Faamasinoga le mataupu, e mafua mai le loia ma le itu o loo molia..  poo le faaleaogaina loa o aiaiga o le tatala ai i tua.”

The conspiracy surfaced in 2019 when the Village Council of Laulii village noticed unusual behaviour in one of the men married into the village. Taualai Leiloa was driving a car he didn’t own, and seemed to have come across some money.

Lemai Simanu “Manu” Sione, Malele Paulo “King Faipopo” and Taualai Leiloa ina ua mua’i valaau lenei mataupu i le 2019.

When investigated Taualai owned up to the conspiracy and named three other men, stating that Tala Pauga had contacted him from Australia to assassinate the then Prime Minister. Taualai said Pauga had sent him money, and arranged for a vehicle and a gun to be delivered to him.

Taualai was sentenced to five years imprisonment in December 2000, while Lema’i Sione and Malele Paulo were handed 4.5 years each, in September 2023.

Talalelei Pauga remains out on bail as Court proceedings continue.

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