Immigration Officer suspended over passports

Principal Immigration Officer Paul Ah Kuoi has been suspended in connection to the departure of Tui Vaai Jr despite a court order banning him from leaving Samoa.

The suspension was confirmed by Ministry of Prime Minister and Cabinet C.E.O., Agafili Tomaimano Shem Leo, who is also the Chief Immigration Officer. 

Tui currently has a Departure Prohibition Order (D.P.O.) in place, which bans him from leaving the country due to criminal proceedings that are currently on foot.

The suspension for Mr. Ah Kuoi is effective this week. When contacted for a comment, Mr. Ah Kuoi said he cannot comment. When he was asked if he will fight the suspension and retain his job as an attorney, he said: “I cannot discuss this matter, sorry but I cannot comment.” 

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Responding to questions from the Sunday Samoan, Agafili said as part of the government process for investigations of this nature, the immigration officer has been suspended.

“As I mentioned in my press release last week, there are two investigations that are ongoing now, one is the internal investigation by the Ministry as per requirements of the Public Service Act and the second one is the criminal investigation that is executed by the Police. 

“The criminal investigation will determine whether or not criminal charges will be laid. That is the prerogative of the Police and the A.G's office. “The suspension resulted from the initial phase of the internal investigation,” said Agafili. 

As reported earlier, the M.P.M.C. are investigating how Tui Vaai Jr was issued a new passport to leave the country despite a court order banning him from travelling.

A statement issued on the matter advised that a police criminal investigation and an internal ministry investigation have commenced into the case. Initial inquiries confirmed that a new passport was issued and the same used by Tui Vaai Jr. to leave the country. 

Last week, the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration, C.E.O. Papali’i John Afele Taimalelagi, confirmed that Tui Vaai Jr. surrendered his travel documents as part of a Court matter pending against him and the passports are in their possession.

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