'Fake identity' deportee charged for failing to appear in court

A Samoan man, Ropeti Sione, who was forcibly sent back from Australia after allegedly fleeing the country on a false passport has been charged by the Police. 

Sione was charged with the offence of failing to appear in court to respond to a warrant of committal.

The charge was confirmed in a statement from Agafili Tomaimano Shem Leo, the Chief Executive Officer of Ministry of Prime Minister and Cabinet (M.P.M.C.), in response to questions sent by the Samoa Observer. 

Sione was deported from Australia last Thursday, and he is currently in police custody while being investigated for other related charges, including identity fraud. 

According to Samoa Immigration, he allegedly "knowingly faked" his identity, to obtain a passport with his photo but in the name of his brother. The identity in question is understood to be that of his half-brother, Ioane Felise.   

Sione was brought before a Savai'i court in 2016 for overdue child support payments and was sent to jail the following year after overdue payments reached $900 tala. 

He was released from jail on the condition that he used his freedom to work and repay the child maintenance payments but instead fled the country.

The return of Sione to Samoa was the result of successful partnership arrangements between the M.P.M.C. through the Samoa Immigration, the Pacific Immigration Development Community (P.I.D.C.) and Australia’s Border Authorities.

“As referenced in the Ministry’s earlier response to this case, when the matter was brought to the attention of the Ministry in 2017, an investigation was launched instantly,” according to Agafili’s statement.

“The investigation found that Sione’s passport application went through the formal passport process but was not picked up by the system when the passport was processed.

“What that meant was that the document used to process the passport appeared genuine at the time.”

The M.P.M.C. has cautioned members of the public that the requirements of the Immigration laws are very clear and any attempt to undermine these requirements is a crime, and will be dealt with accordingly. 

“We would also like to encourage the public to report any matter relating to immigration to the Ministry, to ensure that our borders are protected and that the security of Samoa is not compromised," the statement said. 

“The Ministry would like to acknowledge with gratitude its local, regional and international partners for the support and assistance provided to the Samoa Immigration on this case.” 

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