Trial of Two Men Charged with Conspiracy to Murder Former PM Tuilaepa Finally Underway

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Maintaining good spirits outside Court. 📸 Ganasavea Manuia Tafeaga.

Translated from FaaSamoa by Ganasavea Manuia Tafeaga. The trial of two men charged with conspiracy to murder former Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi is finally underway in the Supreme Court of Samoa.

L-R: Lema’i Faioso Sione, Taualai Leiloa and Malele Paulo first appeared in Court, September 2019.

The matter first surfaced when matai from Laulii reported the matter to Police over three years ago in September 2019.

A Samoa First election candidate Lema’i Faioso Sione aka Simanu (Manu) and Malele Paulo also known as King Faipopo were jointly charged together with the alleged hitman, Taualai Leliloa.

Leiloa, a father of four from Magiagi and Laulii immediately pleaded guilty to his part in the alleged assassination plot when the matter was first called in September 2019.

Tala Pauga and Malele Paulo outside Samoa’s District Court, 2019.

In December 2020, the Supreme Court sentenced Taualai Leiloa to five years imprisonment for conspiracy to murder Samoa’s former Prime Minister.

Justice Tologata Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren in handing down the sentence said, “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”.

A fourth man was accused in the plot. The jailed assassin claimed Australian based Samoan Talalelei Pauga aka Ninja (‘Tala’) ordered the assassination, sent him cash via money transfer and organised a weapon.

Having served over two years of his five year sentence, Taualai Leliloa is expected to give evidence in this week’s court hearing.

Preliminary issues and unsuccessful attempts to repatriate Talelei Pauga from Australia, contributed to the delays in court proceedings.

At the start of proceedings on Monday morning before presiding judge Vui  Clarence Nelson, the Senior Supreme Court Justice ordered details of witness testimonies be suppressed on account of Talalelei Pauga’s case which would eventually be heard separately.

Justice Vui told the media they can only report that the hearing of the case of Malele Paulo ma Lema’i Sione, is underway.

“Pau le mea e lipoti; ua amata suesuega i le mataupu o Malele Paulo ma Lema’i Sione.”

The case is being heard before a panel of five assessors in what is expected to be a week-long hearing with Prosecution listing at least 10 witnesses including matai from the village of Laulii.

Lema’i Sione is being represented by Unasa Iuni Sapolu while Quentin Sauaga is standing in for King Faipopo.