Vietnamese national appears in Court on drug charges

A Vietnamese national at the center of a $400,000 tala drug bust at the Faleolo International Airport made her first appearance in the Supreme Court today.

Twenty-four-year-old female An Tran Thi appeared in Court without a lawyer but due to her lack of understanding of the English language, the matter has been adjourned to Friday for re-mention.

She was travelling from Singapore to American Samoa via Fiji and Samoa, when she was detained at the airport and later charged for having illegal drugs in her possession.

In Court today, lead Prosecutor Magele Leone Su’a-Mailo submitted that the prosecution is yet to finalize the charges and it was unclear whether the defendant understood English. 

Supreme Court Justice Leiataualesa Darryl Clarke then asked Thi whether she understood English and she said “no.” 

In deliberating the next date for re-mention appearance, Justice Leiataualesa said: “I am not going to adjourn this for three weeks for the defendant to remain in custody while she does not understanding what is going on.” 

On the issue of bail, Justice Leiataualesa noted that the Court cannot entertain bail, due to language barrier and the defendant's lack of understanding of English. 

“How can I grant her bail if she cannot communicate with me, and she cannot understand the bail conditions are,” he said.

Justice Leiataualesa said the matter will be re-mentioned on Friday, giving the Court Registry more time to find a translator who can translate the proceedings for the defendant. 

Magele later told the Samoa Observer after the Court hearing that the charges filed by the Police are possession of drugs and bribery. 

In an official statement by the Police, they advised that the illegal drugs had a street value of $400,000 tala and were allegedly found in the woman’s possession when she arrived at the Faleolo International Airport last Sunday. 

The woman travelled in from Fiji and was scheduled to depart for American Samoa. But Customs officers were alerted to drug capsules in her possession, which after confiscation tested positive for heroin and cocaine. 

The Samoa Police Service confirmed in a statement on their Facebook page that they charged a 24-year-old Vietnamese female who flew to Samoa from Singapore via Fiji. 

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