After a two week long trial, two men charged with conspiracy to murder Samoa’s former Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi and former Police Chief Fuiavailiili Su’a Egon Keil have been found guilty by a panel of five assessors.
After five hours of deliberations a representative of the Panel of Assessors read out the decision late Friday evening before a packed courtroom of supporters, police prosecutors and the media.
“You have been found guilty under section 106 (6) of the Crimes Act 2013, of conspiracy to murder former Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi and former Police Commissioner Fuiavailiili Su’a Egon Keil.”
Prosecution presented a case of 10 witnesses including matai of Laulii who had first alerted police of the plot.
In 2019, co-conspirators, Malele Paulo also known as King Faipopo and Lemai Simanu “Manu” Faioso Sione were charged alongside Australian citizen Talalelei Pauga also known as Ninja, and a self-confessed hitman Taualai Leiloa, who is currently serving a five year sentence for his role in the plot.
Outside Court Malele Paulo maintained his innocence. “I do not accept the decision of the Panel of Assessors. My hands are clean of this matter.”
“Ou te lē talia le faaiuga a le vasega o faatonu ua tuuina mai nei, e mama a’u ma lenei mataupu.”
Justice Vui Clarence Nelson presided over the Assessor Trial and ordered that no details of the witness testimonies be made public to ensure a fair trial for the Australian-based alleged co-conspirator, Talalelei Pauga who remains in Australia.
Despite efforts to bring the Australian Samoan to face trial, Australian authorities refused to honour an extradition order from Samoa’s Attorney General Office so Tala Pauga can answer to the allegations against him.
On Friday night in Court, Justice Vui said there were three locations for the attempted assassinations.
“The Catholic Church at Siusega, Tuilaepa’s home in Siusega or Ululoloa, and the fish market in Apia frequented by the former Prime Minister on Sunday mornings.”
These were the exact locations also confessed by the jailed Taualai Leiloa and detailed in the December 2020 sentencing report by Justice Tologata Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren.
In handing down the five year sentence for Taualai Leiloa, Justice Tuala-Warren spoke strongly about the seriousness of the charges and the position of the Court.
“A conspiracy to murder the Prime Minister of any democratic country in the world is an attack on democracy itself. It cannot and should not be taken lightly”.
Justice Vui Clarence Nelson announced Lemai Simanu Sione and Malele Paulo would be sentenced on the 24th of April 2023.