Prisoner alleges Police took missing $30,000 cash

A former escaped convict who pleaded guilty to robbing a Chinese couple of $60,000 has accused Police officers of taking some $30,000 in proceeds from the burglary. 

Aniseko Vaelei appeared before the Supreme Court on Thursday, to answer to seven charges of aggravated robbery and theft-related charges, to which he had earlier entered a not guilty plea. 

Vaelei, 27, escaped Tafaigata prison together with another prisoner, Pati Chong Nee, in January this year. They are both suspects in a chain of crimes that took place earlier in the year. 

Vaelei was captured a month after his escape; Chong Nee remains on the run. 

But on Thursday, Valei applied to overturn his previous statements and plead guilty to a total of 15 charges and told the presiding Judge that $30,000 had gone missing from the stolen cash Police had recovered from him.

Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala – Warren presided over the matter. 

“Your Honour I pleaded not guilty to the charge because I wanted to raise [the fact] that there was $40,000 that I took as my share not $10,000,” said the prisoner. 

Vaelei told the Court that, when he robbed the Chinese nationals' residence in Vailoa Faleata with his fellow prisoner, they found a total of $60,000 tala in a carport. 

Chong Nee had agreed to take $20,000 while he took the remaining share of $40,000, Valei had testified. 

“But when I was taken in at the Faleata police station the officers counted out $10,000 saying that was all the money they found on me,” said Vaelei. 

“I had asked them where did the other $30,000 went to; they said that was all there was. 

“They then made me count from $50 to $40,000 and then Siu right there told me again it was only $10,000.” 

Vaelei told the presiding Judge that he does not deny his offending, but had pleaded not guilty earlier so he would be given an opportunity to explain the missing $30,000. 

In response, Justice Tafaoimalo said the prosecution would be listening to his claim and would look into it. 

She also explained that regardless of how the money was divided between he and his co-offender, they are being jointly charge for taking the entire sum of $60,000 tala. 

The Prosecutor for the case was Attorney General’s Office lawyer, Fuifui Ioane. 

Ms. Ioane withdrew one count of wilful trespass against Vaelei leaving 17 charges against him. 

The 27-year-old from Vaiusu and Aele pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, being armed with dangerous weapon, causing grievous bodily harm, causing actual bodily harm, burglary and theft. 

The charges arise from two separate incidents. 

One at Vailoa Faleata, which involved the robbing and attacking of the Chinese couple, and a second at Falemauga where he stole personal effects with a value of NZ$700 and $200 tala in cash in February.

Justice Tafaoimalo will sentence Vaelei on November 22. 

The prisoner is currently serving a sentence of three years for burglary and theft which predates his prison escape with Chong Nee.

Chong Nee, the co-offender, remains at large after eight months on the run.  

The missing cash alleged by Vaelei is one of several such incidents involving Police Officers who have being accused of similar charges. 

In 2008, a man who was charged for stealing $860,000 from the Samoa National Provident Fund’s Pension scheme office, also claimed the Police took more than $20,000 when they arrested him. 

Sione Ta’ateo, after being released from prison in 2015, told the Samoa Observer that $30,000 was in his possession on the day of his arrest and he had only spent $5,000. 

But when Police captured him they claimed that there was only $30 tala and one joint of marijuana in his bag, he said.  

Police was asked for a comment at the time but had strongly denied the allegations by Ta’ateo. 

In a separate case, a Nigerian man who was unlawfully detained by the Police in 2011, lost his passport and more than $20,000 cash which police took for safe custody. 

Okoro Williams Nnamdi, who was married to a woman from American Samoa, had resisted Police when getting on an aircraft and protested saying he would not cooperate with their instructions until his missing money was returned. 

The Court heard that Okoro’s passport disappeared and his money was never returned. 

After filing a lawsuit against the Police, the Nigerian successfully won a judgement of $103,048 in his favour in the the Supreme Court. 

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