Judge delivers decision on accused L.T.A. Assistant Chief Executive Officers

The Supreme Court yesterday delivered its decision on charges against two Land Transport Authority (L.T.A.) Assistant Chief Executive Officers who were accused of altering certain vehicle years on an electronic system.  

In her decision, Supreme Court Judge, Justice Mata Keli Tuatagaloa dismissed all the charges in relation to forgery against the L.T.A. Legal Division Manager, Anoanoa’i Pepe Lafai.

For the L.T.A. A.C.E.O. for Savai’i Operation, Mata’afa Sepelini, all four charges of forgery, four charges of using forged document, two charges of altering with intent to deceive and four charges of forgery of electronic data were dismissed. 

“However, the following charges are proven beyond reasonable against the defendant, Mata’afa Sepelini,” said Justice Tuatagaloa. 

“Two charges of altering with intent to deceive relating to T-454 (S1106/18) and T-1558 (S1102/18). All four charges of using altered document are proven without reasonable doubt against Mata’afa Sepelini.” 

Justice Tuatagaloa will sentence Sepelini on proven charges on Friday April 12, 2019. 

Lawyer Fepulea'i Patrick Fepulea'i and Bridget Fa’amatuainu Crichton represented Sepelini and Anoanoa’i.  Prosecutor was Lucy Sio Ofoia.  

Outside Court, Anoanoa’i was relieved with the decision. 

“I’m overwhelmed at the moment,” she said in tears.  “It was the verdict I expected but it was just the anxiety of it all…This has been very overwhelming and stressful times for me, these charges (against me) were very malicious.”

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Anoanoa’i added that her parents – who reside in New Zealand – traveled to be with her yesterday and she was thankful for their presence. 

She acknowledged the support from her husband and siblings as well as the work of her lawyer Fepulea’i.  

On the charges, Sepelini was charged with four counts of forgery, four counts of using forged documents, altering, concealing, destroying or reproducing documents with intent to deceive using altered or reproduced documents with intent to deceive, four counts of damaging or interfering with electronic data, and four counts of forgery of electronic data. 

The offending is alleged to have taken place on December 5, 2017 as well as February 19, 2018 and April 5, 2018. 

On the other hand, Anoanoa’i was charged with one count each for forgery, using a forged document, altering, concealing, destroying or reproducing documents with intent to deceive, using altered or reproduced documents with intent to deceive, damaging or interfering with electronic data and forgery of electronic data. The alleged offending took place on March 13, 2018. 

The charges against both defendants are in relation to changing the vehicle year for certain vehicles on the L.T.A. computer system called “RTAS” – Road Transport Administration System. 

The policy that is at the crux of these charges is the Cabinet Directive of January 2018 – where all commercial vehicles more than 15 years old can no longer be re-registered as commercial vehicles (including taxis and buses) – but instead only as private vehicles.  

This means that every year there will always be commercial vehicles that will be outside or older, than the allowed 15 years old and therefore cannot be re-registered as public commercial vehicles. 

Prior to January 2018, the year of make for vehicles to qualify to be registered as public commercial vehicles was unlimited, meaning there was no 15-year-old limitation.

The year is no assurance that a vehicle will automatically be re-registered, as the assessment of whether the vehicle is roadworthy is another important factor, to be taken into account. 

Anoanoa’i and Sepelini have different access privileges to the L.T.A. R.T.A.S. system. Sepelini is alleged to have full access to R.T.A.S. Savai’i and certain I.T. user privileges on R.T.A.S. Upolu that allows him to amend or edit information pertaining to vehicle details. 

Anoanoa’i only has the privilege to ‘change or transfer ownership’ of vehicles. The documentation needed to make such changes is consent from the previous owner, details and ID of new owner.   

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