On the front page of the Samoa Observer yesterday, the story titled Politician files $10 million lawsuit, was published.
Filed by the Member of Parliament from the constituency of Gagaifomauga No. 3, La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Schmidt, the suit targeted his former business colleague and fellow politician, Peseta Vaifou Tevaga.
La’auli is a member of the Human Rights Protection Party. He was first elected to Parliament for the first time in the March 2006 elections.
As the son of the late Government Minister and founding member of the H.R.P.P. Polata’ivao Fosi Schmidt, La’auli knows well that today, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi is H.R.P.P’s Leader, as well as Samoa’s Prime Minister.
The question then is: Did La’auli inform Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, that he was suing “his former business colleague and politician, Peseta Vaifou Tevaga, for $10 million?”
We have no idea.
All we’ve been told is that La’auli, a former Cabinet Minister, was suing the Associate Minister of Cabinet, Vaifou Tevaga, for alleged loss of profits over a business deal that went wrong.
The story says they were involved in a company called Local Partners and Associates Limited (L.P.A.), with their main product being noni-juice exported to Asian markets. Back in 2015 something went wrong which was when the matter ended up in Court, where it remained all the way up to now.
At one point, the Supreme Court Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren dismissed a civil claim brought by Peseta against the former Cabinet Minister, La’auli. An appeal, which Peseta filed, was also dismissed. Later still, a separate criminal proceeding between the same parties, was also pending in the Supreme Court.
Around that time though, it was revealed that two other parties were also involved in the dispute; they were Apulu Lance Polu, a media owner, and Martin Schwalger, a business owner.
As investors in Local Partners and Associates Limited themselves, along with La’aulialemalietoa Polataivao Schmidt, who owned the Maota-o-Samoa Investment Group, word was that they were against Peseta Vaifou Tevaga.
At that hearing, Peseta was the first defendant, the firm called Aldan Civil Engineering Construction Company was the second defendant, and the amount of $10,478,090, was being sought.
The notice of claim showed that as directors of the L.P.A., Apulu and Schwalger held a 65 percent stake, in the company.
Later in 2015, Peseta filed a motion with the Supreme Court to remove Apulu and Schwalger as directors of L.P.A., and a hearing was held.
That was when the Court made interim orders prohibiting them to accept, direct or control any payments made by the customers of L.P.A.
According to the statement of claim, due to the interim orders and the legal proceedings commenced since 2015, Apulu and La’auli have been unable to carry out their responsibilities, as well as adequate and proper conducting of the commercial operations of L.P.A.
As for the tarnishing of the company’s reputation, the statement made reference to the interim order where Apulu was not allowed to bring proceedings on behalf L.P.A., and indeed there was negative publicity being generated, which ultimately had an adverse impact, on the commercial operations of the L.P.A.
Said the statement of claim: “As a consequence, the plaintiffs had suffered loss and damage, namely profits for the year 2016 $1.44 million and 2017 in the amount of $1.44 million, with total amount of $3.89 million.”
Later still, on 23 August 2017, the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao Fosi, announced he was resigning as a Cabinet Minister.
His announcement was made during a press conference in his office, where the Samoa Observer journalist, Joyetter Luamanu, was present.
According to Joyetter Luamanu, during that interview, La’auli was adamant he was innocent.
Later when the article on the interview was published in the Samoa Observer, it was headlined: “I am innocent.”
It went on to quote La’auli as having said: “I declare that only God knows the truth. I claim my innocence and I can categorically state I am clean of all the things I’ve been accused of.”
Reported Joyetter Luamanu: “On Tuesday, La’auli was charged with allegedly obtaining money by deception.
“His wife and a business partner were also charged. The charges are in relation to an on-going court case over a nonu company involving another senior member of the ruling Human Rights Protection Party and Associate Minister of Cabinet and Prime Minister, Peseta Vaifou Tevaga.
“Acting Assistant Police Commissioner, Sala’a Moananu, said they are scheduled to appear in the Supreme Court on 18 September 2017.
“The Cabinet Minister is charged with obtaining by deception. This is the same charge that his wife is facing while the business partner is charged with obtaining a forged document,” Sala’a said.
“Each of the charges carries a maximum penalty, if convicted, and will serve up to seven years in jail.”
During the press conference though, La’auli said he was resigning with a heavy heart out of respect for the government.
Later in a statement, he also said: “It is with a heavy heart that I announce my resignation as a Minister of Cabinet.
“For the integrity of Cabinet, Government and with the highest of respect to the Prime Minister, I willingly surrender my Cabinet portfolios, but I will retain my status as a Member of Parliament, to await the outcome of the court proceedings.”
La’auli vowed to fight all the charges against him vigorously.
The following is a statement he issued to the media on Wednesday, 23 August 2017.
It is with a heavy heart that I announce my resignation as a Minister of Cabinet.
For the integrity of Cabinet, Government and with the highest of respect to the Prime Minister, I willingly surrender my Cabinet portfolios but will retain my status as a Member of Parliament to await the outcome of the court proceedings.
At this time, I will not dwell on the pending charges against me as the matter is now in Court.
But rest assured, I am confident that God willing, justice will prevail.
I would like to take the opportunity to thank the Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi for the opportunity afforded to me to serve our Country as a Cabinet Minister.
I take this opportunity to thank my electoral constituency as well as the various Ministries under my watch during my tenure, or their support.
And lastly but not the least, I also acknowledge the support from my family and Samoa for their trust and faith in this humble servant of the people.
Laaulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao Fosi Schmidt.
Laaulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao Fosi, was the Minister of Agriculture & Fisheries, when he resigned from Cabinet, on Wednesday 23 August, 2017.