Further Delays as Man Who Pleaded Guilty to Murder Plot Changes Lawyers

Taualai pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit murder in Oct 2019. PC: Maina Vai

The man who pleaded guilty to participating in a plot to kill Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi has changed his lawyer, causing a delay to his sentence due to be handed down by Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren this week.

Taualai Leiloa, unrepresented, had initially pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder on the 9th of September 2019, before Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren. He had been unrepresented in

A month later in October 2019, he appeared before then Acting Chief Justice Vui Clarence Nelson for sentencing, but was instead directed by Justice Nelson to seek legal representation because of the seriousness of the charges before him.

Justice Vui told Taualai Vui the time that it was important for him to fully understand the nature and seriousness of the charges against him, and the implications of his guilty plea.

Taualai was assigned Fuimaono Sarona Ponifasio through legal aid and in November 2019 he changed his plea to not guilty through his new counsel.

Fuimaono Sarona Ponifasio told the Court at the time that there were some issues in the summary of facts and at the time Taualai had pleaded guilty, he did not have a lawyer with him.

This week Taualai appeared again before Justice Tafaoimalo however the matter has once again been postponed for Taualai’s new lawyer, Fepuleai Patrick Fepuleai to appear.

Leiloa is one of three men accused of conspiring to kill the Prime Minister of Samoa and faces two counts of conspiracy to murder.

The alleged co-conspirators are Samoa First election candidate Lema’i Faioso Sione and Malele Paulo aka King Faipopo, as well as Australian citizen Tala Pauga. All have denied the charges against them.

Alatise Vitale with Tala Pauga outside Court house in 2019.

Tala Pauga was recently arrested in Brisbane in August this year after the Samoa Attorney General requested his extradition through the Australian Federal Attorney-General, so he could face charges of conspiracy to murder here in Samoa.

Attempts to advocate for Pauga’s release were rejected by a Brisbane magistrate and it is understood Pauga is to be brought to Samoa.

Back in 2018, Pauga made headlines when he hurled abuse and a pig’s head wrapped in newspaper, at the Prime Minister during a public event in Brisbane.

If convicted the four accused face life imprisonment.

Marieta H Ilalio