Cop's $50 tala bribery hearing begins

The hearing for a Police officer accused of accepting a $50 tala bribe from a Vietnamese man at the Police station started in the District Court on Monday. 

Vaivali Laulu, of Fa’ala Palauli and Alamagoto, has pleaded not guilty to one count of corruptly accepting the money from Tran Van during his visitation to the Police station in July last year. 

The Vietnamese national was visiting his wife, who was in custody at the Police station, for alleged importation of drugs. 

Laulu is represented by lawyer, Aumua Ming Leung Wai, while the prosecutor is Attorney General’s Office lawyer, Iliganoa Atoa. 

Several Police officers who gave evidence told the Court that Laulu was not part of the investigating team for the Vietnamese national.

The drug charges against the Vietnamese woman were later withdrawn by prosecution. 

In his evidence, Corporal Valaauina Tuamu, who was the investigating officer for Ms. Thi said Laulu had no involvement in the investigation. 

However, Tuamu said it was him and Laulu who went into a room where the husband of Ms. Thi allegedly put money on the accused’s hand. 

Corporal Tuamu said the Vietnamese man had requested to see his wife and asked for permission to see her. 

But when Tuamu and Laulu went into the room, Mr. Van offered money to the officers. 

“He gave me money but I rejected it,” said Corporal Tuamu.

“I told him I will not accept any bribes but he told me it wasn’t bribe it was for food. I told him no thanks. He then put the money on Vaivali’s hand who was sitting next to me.”

When prosecutor queried the witness if Laulu had accepted the money, Tuamu said he was unsure about it. 

Pressed to explain why he didn’t accept the money, the Tuamu told the Court because he was the investigating officer. 

Asked if he would accept the money even if he wasn’t involved in the case, Tuamu replied no. 

The witness was then shown a video of the alleged incident at the Police station. 

He told the Court the officers in the video is him and Laulu together with the Vietnamese man. 

The video shows the Vietnamese giving something to Tuamu who did not take the offer. 

After that, the Vietnamese man then walked up to Laulu and put something on his hand, but it was not clear what the content was. 

In his evidence, Tuamu said it was the money from the Vietnamese man. 

During cross examination, defense lawyer Aumua asked the officer if it was normal practice for relatives to ask permission to see those in custody. In response, he said no. 

The lawyer also asked if the suspended officer was part of the investigation carried out by the Police at the time. 

He said no. Aumua then concluded by telling the Court that his client will not be testifying in the matter. 

He also asked for adjournment so he can file submissions on legal issues. 

District Court Judge, Leota Raymond Schuster, adjourned the matter for closing submissions on Wednesday this week. 

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