The Supreme Court cannot convict the Associate Minister of the Ministry of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Peseta Vaifou Tevaga, of fraud and forgery. That’s because the prosecution has failed to prove the allegations against him beyond reasonable doubt.
So argued Peseta’s lawyer, Leuluaiali’i Olinda Woodroffe, yesterday when she presented her final submission during the hearing of the Associate Minister.
Peseta has pleaded not guilty to forgery and fraud. The charges arose from a complaint filed by the former Speaker of Parliament, La’aulialemalietoa, Apulu Lance Polu and Martin Jonathan Schwalger with the Police.
The plaintiffs are shareholders of a company called Local Partners and Associate Limited. Peseta’s son, Lei’ataua Danny, was also a shareholder of the company. The complainants claim Peseta had forged the signature of Mr. Schwalger in order to transfer shares from his son, Lei’ataua, to his name.
According to Leulua’iali’i, Peseta’s motives in transferring the shares were pure.
Besides, having used his $2.5m land as collateral for a loan taken out by the company, he was merely concerned about protecting his property.
“Peseta went to M.C.I.L. (Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour) only to find out the records were changed and not what he had understood,” argued the lawyer.
“There was a meeting called on the 29th May 2013 and a second meeting on the 13th June 2013 where we have heard Maiava’s (VisekotaPeteru) evidence that La’auli and Peseta were present at her office. It wasn’t a casual meeting, it discussed the shares of 50/50 and it was agreed upon by La’auli and Peseta.”
Justice Mata Tuatagaloa, however, raised the question. She asked Leulua’iali’i what she had to say about the factLa’auli and Peseta were not legal shareholders of the company.
“What is your take on them then coming to an agreement of 50/50 shares of the company?”
Leulua’iali’i said the two are not shareholders but Mr. Schwalger’s evidence made him sound as if he was the mouthpiece of La’auli.
Peseta was in a similar situation with his son Lei’ataua who had agreed to exit the company to allow his father to take over his shares.
Leulua’iali’i continued to say that her client did not have to testify and the National Prosecution Office should have been the ones to find the expert to testify about the signatures.
“Because they didn’t I stepped in that line,” she said.
The lawyer reiterated the charges against her client cannot be proven because Maiava has given evidence she was the one who prepared the document in question.
“The Notice of Resolution was prepared by Maiava,” said Leulua’iali’i.
“Maiava is an agent of the company that was appointed by La’auli. She was very clear in her evidence that they were in a meeting with Peseta and La’auli and Mr. Schwalger signed the document infront of her. This happened in 2013 and it was raised in 2015 after two weeks when Peseta filed a civil matter against La’auli and others.”
The defense lawyer said Peseta, Lei’ataua Danny and Maiavaall saw Mr. Schwalger signing the document. She added even the expert said what she assessed is high probable that it was signed by Mr. Schwalger.
The lawyer then questioned the evidence of Mr. Schwalger saying it was very suspicious.
“He admitted he did not see Peseta sign the document yet he was the man that wrote to Police that it was Peseta that signed it,” said Leulua’iali’i.
“It was also put to him if he was lying and he did not reply which means he was lying. It could be he was told by La’auli to lie which is a question to ask.
It is my submission that the document was not forged but it was prepared by Maiava and it is a genuine document.”
‘Leulua’iali’i said it was Peseta’s motive to try and legalise the shares and because he has so much to lose like his $2.5million land.
“…and of course there was a motive from the complainants after they filed complaint two days after they were served with an affidavit of the civil application by Peseta. The last part of the submission from prosecution that says Maiava assisted in the forgery by preparing the document I say it’s not unfair and unjust to make such allegation without putting it to her. She is a senior lawyer of this country and it is wrong.
“Peseta has not committed the alleged crimes, the document was genuine.”
In her submission, Acting Director of National Prosecution Office, Muriel Lui said there was a question of credibility on Peseta’s evidence.
Ms. Lui also questions the legality of the meeting between Peseta and La’auli.
“It was not a board meeting nor was it a company meeting,” she stressed.
“The meeting cannot be taken as a board meeting. Maiava wanted to preserve the friendship of La’auli and Peseta and why she advised them. If it was a formal meeting Danny should’ve been there and the logic of what she (Leulua’iali’i) is talking about does not make sense.”
The issue about the civil claim from Peseta against La’auli and others, Ms. Lui pointed out of course the criminal matter surfaced after it.
“Of course it was made after the civil allegation because that was when they were aware of this document and the only reason why it came up.”
Ms. Lui insists that charge against Peseta for making the document is correct and proven.
“We made a submission that yes Maiava made the document because that is the only evidence that is before the Court,” she said.
“But it was on the instructions of Peseta. An example is a secretary. You instruct the secretary to type this up and you don’t charge the secretary you get charged for it.”
The full written submissions from the lawyers were filed before the Judge on Friday last week.
Justice Tuatagaloa has reserved her ruling until 28 October 2016.