Signature "appears genuine,” Expert witness in alleged forgery hearing

A forensic document examiner has backed the Associate Minister of the Ministry of the Prime Minister, Peseta Vaifou Tevaga, in the ongoing hearing of claims he forged the signature of a business partner.

New Zealand Scientist, Linda Winfred Morrell, of Wellington, told the Court yesterday the signature she examined on the document referred to her appeared “genuine.”

“I examined the reference material of Mr. Schwalger’s signatures and I am able to establish the variations between signatures which everyone has,” she said. 

“I looked at the questioned signature (and) it seems to be very fluent. I also find a number of pictorial similarities, height size and some similar features. 

“In my opinion, even though I did not get to see the original documents, based on what I examined, I consider that signature could well be a genuine signature.”

The New Zealand expert was flown to Samoa to verify if the Associate Minister had indeed forged the signature of Martin Schwalger in transferring of shares to his name.

Peseta, who is represented by lawyer Leulua’iali’i Olinda Woodroffe, is facing charges of forgery and fraud. The charges arose from a complaint filed by the former Speaker of Parliament, La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Polata’ivao, Apulu Lance Polu and Martin Jonathan Schwalger with the Police.

The plaintiffs are shareholders of a company called Local Partners and Associates Limited. Peseta’s son, Danny Lei’ataua, 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, Danny, to his name.

The Acting Director of the National Prosecution Office, Muriel Lui, is the Prosecutor with Lucy Sio assisting. Justice Mata Tuatagaloa is presiding.

In her evidence yesterday, Morrell said she was given reference material of several signatures of Mr. Schwalger to analyse together with the alleged forged signature. 

She added that because she was only given copies of the documents, it limited her examination. 

“I was  of  the understanding that I will be given the opportunity to examine the original document,” said the expert. 

Ms. Lui questioned the expert about the signature, in relation to some of the missing letters.

The witness pointed out that those are some of the variations of Mr. Schwalger’s signature. 

Ms. Lui also questioned her preliminary findings which highlighted that the signature could well have been a genuine signature of another writer. 

The forensic specialist said her examination was very limited due to the unavailability of the original copies of the document.

Next to give evidence was Leiataua Danny Swenke. 

Leiataua is the son of Peseta who was the shareholder and Director of the Local Partners and Associates Limited. 

According to Leiataua, he tendered his resignation from L.P.A. on 29th May during a board meeting where all the Directors were present. 

Those Directors and partners include Apulu Lance Polu, La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao and Mr. Schwalger. 

“In that meeting I appointed my dad to take my place,” said Leiataua. 

“I was not happy that I didn’t sign the company cheque book and the vehicles (of L.P.A.) were taken to La’auli’s land. 

“The other issues raised in the meeting was my dad saying to revert the shares back to 50/50percent and my dad being a signatory to the cheque book and one other shareholder.”

Leiataua recalled that on 31st  May, he went with his father Peseta to see company lawyer, Maiava Visekota Peteru. 

He explained the document was prepared on the 14th June where Martin was present and signed the company’s resolution. 

In cross examination, Ms. Lui put it to Leiataua that Mr. Schwalger did not sign a resolution but only a document to have Peseta as one of the signatories. 

Leiataua denied this. 

“He did sign it, I was there.”

The Prosecutor reminded Leiataua that all shareholders denied there was a board meeting where his resignation was discussed. 

Leiataua insisted there was a meeting. 

Ms. Lui also asked Leiataua  if his evidence is only to protect his father. 

In response, he said no. 

The matter was adjourned yesterday until Friday for the lawyers to make their final submissions. 

Since the hearing started on Monday, several former Members of Parliament have been in Court to support their colleagues.

Peseta has pleaded not guilty to the allegations.

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