Trial over deadly car collision begins

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu 17 July 2017, 12:00AM

The trial of a Chinese driver whose vehicle exploded when it slammed into a bus killing an elderly man started yesterday. 

Keiji Li is accused of driving a Toyota Estima and he’s facing charges of motor vehicular manslaughter and (alternative) negligent driving causing the death of Tanielu Venasio Pati. 

Li is represented by Leota Raymond Schuster while Prosecuting is Leone Su’a-Mailo of the Attorney General’s Office. 

Li vehemently denied the charges. 

As reported earlier, the collision between the Toyota Estima and the bus killed 58-year-old father from Leauva’a, Tanielu Pati Seinafo. 

He saved a baby’s life when the van exploded after it crashed into the bus.

Tanielu was holding a four-month-old baby, also named Tanielu. They both fell off the bus during the explosion but the deceased had managed to cuddle the toddler securely, saving his young life. 

Tanielu Sr died upon arrival at the hospital. 

Last week, Supreme Court Justice Leiataualesa Darryl Clarke denied the application seeking to “leave the jurisdiction” by Li. 

Justice Lei’ataualesa noted in his ruling the defendant Li is 38 years old and is a citizen of China. He is a mobile telecommunications engineer.

He came to Samoa to work for the Fiji registered telecommunications company Huawei, engaged by Bluesky to build and launch its 4G mobile phone network. 

He has been in Samoa since February 2017. 

Justice Leiataualesa noted the application by the accused seeks for an order to vary his bail conditions to grant him “leave to leave the jurisdiction”. 

“He desires to return temporarily to the Long Hua District, Shenzhen, Guang Dong Province, People’s Republic of China to provide support and witness the birth of his second child expected anytime in the last week of June or first week of July 2017.” 

Annexed to his affidavit provided to the court are copies of documents (not being originals) with certified translations. 

The translated documents indicate that his wife is due to give birth between June 30 and 6 July 2017. The medical reports show that the fetus is “healthy (normal)” and “everything is normal”. The defendant offers a $10,000 bail bond to secure his return. Justice Leiataualesa pointed out the defense counsel and prosecution confirmed their understanding that Samoa does not have an extradition treaty with the P.R.C. 

The application by the accused is strongly opposed by the prosecution on the ground that its likely the accused will not be returning to Samoa to attend the hearing. However he’s charged with serious offences. Furthermore the accused’s livelihood and family are in China and as such, the likelihood of him returning to answer the charge is very low. “There is strong prosecution evidence against the accused and as such, the real likelihood of a conviction is high.”



Justice Leiataualesa noted the issue in relation to the application by the accused to vary his bail conditions is the accused risk of flight and his failing to appear at the hearing. “The importance of this factor in respect of bail is contained in the CPA (see for example: sub-sections 99(a), 106(3)(a)). 

“The accused entered Samoa in February 2017 as a visitor on behalf of Huawei to carry out work for BlueSky. “This was to assist with the build and launch of the BlueSky 4G network. 

“He has no family connections to Samoa, no ongoing employment here nor any assets or property in the jurisdiction. “But for these proceedings, I expect the accused would have by now departed Samoa,” said Justice Leiataualesa. 

According to his counsel, the accused wishes to return to the P.R.C. on ‘humanitarian grounds’ to witness the birth of his second child. 

His counsel however acknowledged that the likelihood of the accused not appearing for hearing is “strong” but that his risk of flight was nevertheless in the ‘realm of possibilities’.

“Based on the material before the Court, I assess the risk of the accused failing to return to Samoa to face trial to be high. “Counsel for the accused himself acknowledged that risk as “strong”. 

“Clearly, the accused’s desire to be with his wife for the birth of their second child is a strong desire. “It is for that reason he has made this application. 

“Given his strong desire to be with his wife and family for the birth of their second child, there is a material risk that on returning to the P.R.C. and being there with them for the birth of that child, he may also then have a strong desire to remain there following the birth and not appear for his trial,” said Justice Leiataualesa. 

This risk is exacerbated by the fact that if he returns and if he is convicted of the charges before the Court, he may face an imprisonment term that would separate him from his family for a period of time. Justice Leiataualesa noted that following the expected birth of their second child. 

“The medical reports show that the fetus is “healthy” and “everything is normal”. “There is therefore no present known risk to the unborn child. 

“Whilst the desire of a father to be present to witness the birth of a child is understandable, should he be found not guilty following trial, he will be able to be reunited with his family within weeks of the expected birth,” Justice Leiataualesa pointed out. 

Justice Leiataualesa stated the bail bond of $10,000 put forward by the accused falls well short of satisfying the court that the bail bond would sufficiently reduce the risk of the accused failing to return.



Justice Leiataualesa stated the charges against the defendant are very serious and in all the circumstances, the factors for the grant of variation of his bail conditions are far outweighed by those against the grant of the variation of his bail conditions. 

The application to vary bail conditions is accordingly dismissed. He was remanded into Police custody and will appear in court for a hearing before a group of Assessors.

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu 17 July 2017, 12:00AM

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