Four high-profile prisoners under heavy guard in swap

Four of Samoa’s most high-profile prisoners had their locations swapped under heavy Police guard on Friday. 

Tagaloasa Filipaina and Ovaleni Poli, who are accused of masterminding the failed mass prison break plot during Cyclone Gita last year, were transferred to the new Tanumalala Prison. 

In return, Malele Atofu Paulo - better known as King Faipopo - and Lema’i Faioso Sione, both of whom have charged over the alleged plot to assassinate Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, were transferred into police custody. 

Paulo and Sione are now housed at Police headquarters in Apia. 

The transfer of the prisoners was confirmed by the Police Commissioner, Fuiavaili’ili Egon Keil, and the Minister for Prison and Correction Services, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt. 

“I can confirm the prisoner exchange and it was done on the request by the Prison and Correction Services,” said Fuiavaili’ili in response to questions from the Samoa Observer.

“As you know the Police headquarters here (in town) has been declared as a prison by the Minister of Correction Services, Tialavea. Under the law he can designate a building and area a Prison and that was a ruling issued by the court. 

“So all we’re doing here is the exchanging of prisoners under the jurisdiction of the Prison and Correction Services,” he said. 

The Commissioner declined to comment when asked about reports from Correction officers within the prison who have told the Samoa Observer there were “death threats” made against a prisoner who alleged to have been the Police main witness in the plot case which is pending in Court. 

He then referred the questions to Minister Tialavea. 

“They Prison and Correction Services should be able to answer those questions given we acted on their request,” said Fuiavaili’ili. 

However when contacted yesterday, the Minister referred the queries back to the Commissioner of Police. 

Tagaloasa Filipaina and Ovaleni Vaili have been battling the government to move them to Tafaigata before the prison was relocated to Tanumalala, for more than a year. 

In the last ruling in the matter, issued this May, Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala Warren dismissed the claim by the prisoners and encouraged the Commissioner of Prisons that once the new prison is completed to reassess moving the applicants there as the cells would be more secure. 

This week, Taualai Leiloa,  pleaded guilty to a plot to assassinate the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi. He was one of the three men charged over the alleged  plot. 

The other defendants, Lemai Sione and Malele Paulo, have entered pleas of not guilty. 

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