An application to quash two charges against the Associate Minister of the Ministry of the Prime Minister, Peseta Vaifou Tevaga, has been dismissed by the Supreme Court.
Chief Justice, His Honour Patu Tiava’asue Falefatu Sapolu, made the decision yesterday after considering an application from Peseta’s lawyer, Leuluaiali’i Olinda Woodroffe, and a response from the prosecution.
Peseta is facing one charge of forgery and another charge of fraud in relation to a document he is alleged to have forged.
The document in question is disputed by Martin Jonathan Schwalger. He is a shareholder of Local Partners and Associates Ltd, a company with shares also owned by Peseta.
Chief Justice Patu said the application from Peseta has been dismissed and the matter is to proceed towards a substantive trial.
He did not give his reasons in Court yesterday but assured that a written summary will be made available to the parties after a fortnight.
Precious Chang and Lucy Sio, of the Office of the Attorney General, are prosecuting.
Leulua’iali’i had made an application to dismiss the charges and also sought costs. She maintained that the Police abused the process when they filed the charges against her client. She also said they lacked evidence to support the charges.
For the abuse of process, Leulua’iali’i accused another lawyer of writing to the police “to simply persuade to prosecute the defendant without any further information”.
But Chief Justice Patu raised the issue of whether it was the police who abused the process or the lawyer who wrote to the police.
In response, Leulua’iali’i said it is the lawyer and the police. She claimed they did not investigate the authenticity of the signature properly.
“It is the police for not taking further steps to confirm whether the signature was forgery or not,” said the lawyer. She added that her client denies signing the letter.
The lawyer also raised concerns about the motive behind the charges against her client.
She said the document dates back to 2013. She is surprised that it has surfaced now, nearly two years later, when the people involved were facing a civil lawsuit.
“The police is used as a weapon of threat to Peseta,” she said.
Leulua’iali’i also argued that the Police don’t have sufficient evidence to charge her client.
Further, she said her client was never interviewed by the Police. But Ms. Chang told the Court that Peseta was asked by police to be interviewed but he exercised his right to remain silent.
His Honour Patu questioned the claim about the alleged forgery. “How could police file charges without any information,” the Chief Justice asked. “They could not have acted without information….”
Ms. Chang explained that the document in question, dated 13 June 2013, is a false document.
She said Schwalger did not sign it and there was never a meeting held to change the shareholders to Martin 50% and Peseta 50%.
“The signature (on the forged document) is of Martin but he did not sign it,” said Ms. Chang.
“From the statement of lawyer Maiava Visekota, Martin was not present in a meeting, those that were present was La’auli (Leuatea Polataivao) and Peseta who at that time were not shareholders of the company.
“In that statement there were only two people who discussed the changes of shareholders in which this document came out and it was given to Peseta to arrange for the signature of Martin where Martin did not sign.”
Furthermore, Ms. Chang said the Speaker of Parliament, La’auli Leuatea Polataivao Schmidt, also gave a statement with police where he says there was never a meeting for the board of directors in which a decision was made.
“He (La’auli) in a statement advised there should be a meeting before such changes can take place. On top of that is a statement from Apulu (Lance Polu) to say there was never a meeting of board of directors where Apulu is a shareholder.
“That is to support the case of police and that is their investigation.”
The matter has been adjourned.