Court convicts, fines ex-L.T.A. senior official

Former Land Transport Authority (L.T.A.) Assistant Chief Executive Officer for Savai’i Operation, Mata’afa Sepelini, has been convicted and fined $3,000 tala. 

Mata’afa was found guilty of six out of 24 charges against him before the Supreme Court. 

He was found guilty of two counts of altering with intent to deceive and four counts of altering documents on an L.T.A. electronic system called Road Transport Administration System (R.T.A.S.) 

Supreme Court Judge, Justice Mata Keli Tuatagaloa, sentenced Mata’afa on Monday.

He was represented by lawyer, Fepulea’i Patrick Fepulea'i, while Veiuto Fa’asii of the Attorney General’s office was the prosecutor. 

In delivering the sentence for the defendant, Justice Tuatagaloa acknowledged several support letters from the community for Mata’afa and his unblemished character. 

She pointed out that the prosecution had sought a custodial sentence for the defendant. 

“They sought the custodial sentence among the following factors – they say there are aspects of forgery and dishonestly involved, there is a breach of trust in that you were in managerial or executive role, and that you used and abuse the position to access the computer system by making changes made,” she said. 

She added that the prosecution submitted the offending was premeditated and the offending has had an impact on L.T.A.  

“You have 24 years of service to the Government of Samoa, a first offender you are obviously a person of good character, as witnessed by written testimonial. 

“Each case should be sentenced according to circumstances. 

“I also take the point raised by your counsel, in your case there is no evidence of monetary benefits received, like the cases that prosecution referred to. 

“Your valuable and loyal service to the government for 24 years, your unblemished record and overall character as a professional and as a member of the community, the experience and qualification is still much needed in my view for the country for its future plan and development. 

“This in my view warrants a non-custodial sentence.”

Justice Tuatagaloa said the knowledge and experience of Mata’afa is valuable to the country, for its development and therefore does not deserve a custodial sentence. 

“The fact that as defendant that you will have a conviction recorded to your name – in my view to any professional and person with an unblemished record – would be the adverse impact and consequences.”

She said the appropriate sentence for Mata’afa is a conviction and fine of $500 per offence he is found guilty of which in total is $3,000.  

He is ordered to pay the fine by Wednesday this week.

Prior to the sentencing of Mata’afa, his lawyer Fepuelai told the Court that his client has financial difficulty as a result of the matter against him.

He said the defendant had applied for his old job at L.T.A. but was informed he was not shortlisted because of his conviction.

Fepulea’i opposed prosecution’s recommendation for a custodial sentence for Mata’afa.

Mata’afa was one of two management officers from L.T.A. charged. He faced 24 charges of which 18 were dismissed. 

The charges relate to four taxi vehicles that the defendant is alleged to have changed the vehicle year on the R.T.A.S. system.

The changes to the vehicle year, as alleged by the prosecution, were made so the said taxi vehicles do not fall outside the 15 year timeframe so they could still be re-registered as taxis.

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

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. 

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