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Court appeal against acquitted election candidate withdrawn

 An appeal against an unsuccessful candidate from the 2016 General Election, Tuala Iosefo Ponifasio, has been withdrawn. 

It comes after the Attorney General’s Office decided to overturn its decision to delegate its powers to a private prosecutor to prosecute the candidate and senior lawyer.

The matter was called before Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala – Warren on Friday where the appeal was withdrawn.

The appeal was filed by private prosecutor and lawyer, Ruby Drake, acting for Taulamago Simone, Ituau Enele, Fa'atauu Malautea, of Leauva'a and Tevaga Samilolo and Va Ve’a, of Samalaeulu. 

However, a private prosecutor cannot appeal a Supreme Court decision that acquitted Tuala of election bribery charges against him. 

Under the Criminal Procedure Act 2016, only the Attorney General has a right to appeal a decision of the Supreme Court on an appeal from the District Court. 

The Supreme Court had quashed a decision from the District Court in 2017 that found Tuala guilty of bribery and convicted him.

The A.G. later took over the private prosecution by utilising the A.G.’s right of appeal to appeal the judgment of Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala – Warren. 

Lawyer Mauga Precious Chang, representing Tuala, challenged the A.G.’s involvement and interference through private prosecution. 

The Attorney General later rescinded and revoked its direction for Mrs. Drake on Friday. 

Asked for a comment, Tuala said he is happy his name has finally been cleared. 

He said the case has had an impact on him and his family over the last three years. 

In 2018, Tuala appealed against his conviction and the penalty imposed in the District Court. 

His appeal was upheld by the Supreme Court. 

In her decision to quash the bribery conviction against Tuala, Justice Tafaoimalo expressed concerns about the motives of the informants. 

“It was blatantly obvious from their evidence that the motive was entrapment of the appellant,” she ruled. 

“The attendance of the informants, in particular Taulamago Sione and his sons, as well as Va at meetings for the appellant’s committee, holding themselves out as committee members and receiving money which are the subject of these charges, is highly questionable. 

“Motive only becomes evident when the evidence is looked at in totality, which this Court has done. With respect, motive needs to be borne in mind for future prosecutions of this nature.” 

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