“They are lies,” Unasa Iuni Sapolu hits back
Senior lawyer and leader of the Samoa First Political Party, Unasa Iuni Sapolu, has denied claims she has been disbarred from the New Zealand Law Society.
She has also accused Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi of “mollycoddling the masses against” her with unfounded claims.
“I have been a member of the New Zealand Law Society for more than 30 years and up to this day; I am still a member,” Unasa told the Sunday Samoan.
“Allegations and reports about my disbarment are lies.”
Unasa, who also heads the Sapolu Law Firm, was responding to questions from the Samoa Observer in relation to claims from the Prime Minister that there are lawyers in Samoa who have been de-registered from overseas as a result of serious offenses and severe professional misconduct.
While Tuilaepa did not name any lawyer in particular, Unasa told the Samoa Observer she knows the allegation was directed at her.
“He was stating the obvious,” she said. “(But) I have never been disbarred, I have never been investigated by the Police; I have never been charged by the Police in New Zealand.”
Unasa added that Prime Minister Tuilaepa knows that if he named her, he would get into trouble with the law.
“But he is using as a way of mollycoddling the mass against me; most especially now that I am leading a party and I happen to be a woman,” she said.
“I have never done anything wrong in New Zealand that warrants what he’s trying to say, I was never disbarred and never suspended.”
Asked why she moved back to Samoa, Unasa explained that her three children, Eliota, Josie and Salu met and decided to invest in Samoa.
“They came together and bought the Apaula Heights for $700,000 and spend another $300,000 to upgrade the place to where it is now. Also I came back home to retire after 30 years of working as a lawyer.”
According to Unasa, after having her eldest son, she took him to New Zealand for school and she also enrolled in school as well to be lawyer.
“When my marriage did not work (in New Zealand), I divorced my husband and I moved back home to manage my children’s million tala investment in Samoa and also started my firm,” she said.
Asked about the cancellation of her New Zealand firm from the listing of Legal Services Agency in 2010, Unasa said their firm was a victim of racism, by those sitting on the Council.
“When the allegations surfaced, I acted to have the news outlet correct their lies; as I submitted the withdrawal of my firm to take on anymore legal aid cases,” said Unasa.
Asked about the $2 million worth of taxpayer-funded legal aid, she said their bills is nothing compared to the bills of other firms to the Legal Services Agency.
“Most of the work we were doing there was pro bono, and $2 million accumulated they claim was for several years; yet if you look at what the other lawyers are making from the legal aid was much more; hence why I never understood why they targeted our firm, other than the fact they were pushing out the Polynesians.”
According to Unasa, in 2010 their firm represented numerous of Samoans taxi drivers who were facing sex charges and this accumulated to that $2 million tala.
“Also keep in my mind, at my firm in New Zealand there were other young Samoan lawyers working under my firm and they also received legal aid client which added to that $2 million indicated by that article in 2010.”
It was not possible to obtain a comment from Prime Minister Tuilaepa yesterday.