Third suspect in alleged assassination plot accepted back in village

The village of Lauli'i had banished a man facing charges for conspiracy to assassinate Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, only to accept him back days later as the investigation into the alleged plot continues.

Following a Village Council meeting on Saturday, the village made the decision to accept the man, Taualai Taualai, back to the village at the request of the Police, pending the outcome of the investigation. 

Taualai is the third suspect to have been charged. The other two are Malele Atofu Paulo and Lema'i Faioso Sione. 

Lauli'i's Village mayor, Fa'alogo Sasauli Moli, told the Samoa Observer the village decided to allow Taualai - whose wife is a resident - to return after being banished earlier in the week to make it easier for Police to keep track of his whereabouts. 

“We have agreed to assist in that way," Faalogo said.

"His acceptance in the village is under very strict conditions that he does not do anything else until his appearance in Court."

The Council has also been engaged in a search for a gun thought to be linked to the alleged plot.

Fa'alogo said Taualai had told the Village Council that it was at his home. 

“But it has gone missing and is no longer at his home,” said Fa'alogo. "We have left it like that and [are] leaving the matter for Police to do their work.” 

Taualai has been charged together with Paulo - also known as King Faipopo - and Lema’i for conspiracy to assassinate the Prime Minister. 

Paulo is in custody with Lemai while Taualai has been remanded on bail pending their appearance in Court on 26 August. 

“He was banished earlier this week and he was asked to sit in the village council today (Saturday) so we can discuss the terms of his return,” said Faalogo. 

“Taualai has also been banished by his family village and so Police had asked if he can be accepted back to stay with his wife’s family to make it easier to locate him while they continue their investigation."

Fa'alogo dismissed reports that the Village Council had discovered two guns earlier on this week following an investigation.

The village was alerted about the alleged plot from men in the village who had heard the alleged conspiracy from Taualai himself, the Mayor said. 

The men then reported it to the Village Council who took action on Monday and notified Police, sparking the investigation and charges. 

It is also believed that a Samoan residing in Australia is allegedly involved in the planning of the conspiracy. 

On Friday evening, the Police confirmed three men have been charged as a result of their ongoing investigation. 

The evidence includes the use of social media from within and outside Samoa. 

“As we continue our investigation, we will explore other jurisdictions and determine whether overseas nationals or entities were directly involved and where the evidence is confirmed, there will be further charges,” the Police said in a statement.

“Along with the Office of the Attorney General, we have engaged our international law enforcement partners to assist with the investigation, which extends our enquiries outside of Samoa.”

Police said their investigation has also identified the recurring issue and influence of false allegations and unsupported statements posted on social media. 

“[Samoa Police Service] takes any threat against the Prime Minister of Samoa very seriously and the full weight of the government law enforcement and its resources will be used to thoroughly investigate this matter,” it stated.

Police have commended the village for its quick response in reporting the matter to Police. 

The home of Lemai, a former Samoa First election candidate, was raided by Police on Wednesday night and he was arrested. 

On Thursday morning Paulo was also arrested at the Mulinuu Court House shortly after he appeared for a criminal libel complaint brought by the Prime Minister.

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