11 August 2023 Apia Samoa, Translated from FaaSamoa. Two men found guilty of conspiring to murder Samoa’s former Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi and former Police Commissioner Fuiavailiili Su’a Egon Keil, were this afternoon handed prison terms by Justice Vui Clarence Nelson in the Supreme Court of Samoa.
Lema’i Simanu “Manu” Faioso Sione was sentenced to four and a half years while Malele Paulo aka King Faipopo was handed a four year sentence.
Ahead of reading out his sentence, Senior Supreme Court Justice Vui Clarence Nelson asked the defendants if they had anything to say.
The outspoken 9King Faipopo stood to take up the opportunity, but then fires serious accusations towards officers of the Court.
“Judge Vui, I have new evidence,” he says. “A former judge and a lawyer are involved in this.”
“I want a Court that is just, because my human rights have been affected,” said Paulo.
Justice Vui ignored the outburst and moved to read out the sentence, stating that the prison terms are different because they are directly related to the level of involvement each of the defendants had towards the conspiracy.
Justice Vui addressed Lema’i Simanu Sione and told him that the Court has rated his involvement in the conspiracy as serious. “In that the vehicle used was yours, and you tried to purchase the firearm that would have been used, and you also received money through Western Union, to give to Taualai.”
Taualai Leiloa was charged alongside Lema’i and King Faipopo, with Australian citizen Talalelei Pauga as the fourth co-conspirator.Taualai, a father of four from Magiagi and Laulii immediately pleaded guilty to his part in the alleged assassination plot when the matter was first brought before the Courts in September 2019.
Taualai was sentenced to five years at Tanumalala, after he confessed that he was the paid hitman, who was provided with a weapon, a vehicle and given different location options from which he should carry out the assassination. He was told to go the former Prime Minister’s Catholic parish at Siusega, and then to the Savalalo fish market on Sunday morning. Taualai said they had also considered the opening ceremony of the Pacific Games 2019 to carry out the murders, however, he never intended to go through with it, but he did use the money received for his family.
Justice Vui gave Lema’i Sione a starting point of six years. He took off six months for being a first offender, and 12 months for the penalties imposed by his Village Council, including a perpetual banishment from the village. “That leaves four and half years.”
For Malele Paulo, the Courts found his involvement to have been a lot less, however, he p aware of the conspiracy and supported the plan. King Faipopo had specifically requested that the targets be the former Prime Minister and former Police Commissioner.
Justice Vui gave him a starting point of four years. Two months were added for Malele Paulo’s previous offences before the Court deducted two months for looking after his father as mentioned in the probation report. “That leaves four years.”
The Office of the Attorney General issued an extradition order against Samoan-Australian Talalelei Pauga back in 2019 when Pauga named as a co-conspirator to assassinate Tuilaepa and Fuiavailiili. That order was finally granted by Australia in June 2023.
Pauga is the last of the four co-conspirators to face the charges brought against him.
In an interview with Samoa Global News, Samoa’s Attorney General, Su’a Hellene Wallwork said the extradition order had been approved and Samoa Police are on standby to fly to Australia and bring back the accused.
Talalelei Pauga first made the headlines in 2018 when he threw a pig’s head and uttered abusive language towards Tuilaepa during an event held in Brisbane, Australia.
In handing down Taualai’s sentence in December 2000, Supreme Court Justice Tologata Tafaoimalo highlighted the seriousness of the offense.
“A conspiracy to murder the Prime Minister of any democratic country of the world is an attack on democracy itself”, said Justice Tologata Tafaoimalo. “It cannot and should not be taken lightly”.
“Despite any issues the defendant may have with the Prime Minister, the Office of the Prime Minister of Samoa is deserving of respect, and a threat to the personal safety and security of the Prime Minister is unacceptable”.