Samoan sailor detained in U.S. over stabbing

A Samoan sailor has been detained in a United States Customs and Border Protection facility in Miami, Florida, after he allegedly stabbed a Samoan colleague onboard a cruise ship in mid-April.

The General Manager of Samoa Shipping Services, Lautimuia Afoa Vaai, told the Samoa Observer the stabbing incident occurred on the Mediterranean Shipping Company-owned vessel, M.S.C. Armonia, and led to the detention of 32-year-old, Aisoli Te’o Faapusa,

The U.S. authorities have opted to release him to the Samoa government and not press charges.

“Embarrassingly…one [Samoan] sailor stabbed another Samoan sailor so he was actually handed over to the authorities in Miami and the ship left," Lautimuia left. 

"He was left there because it’s criminal charges. The captain of the ship emailed the headquarters and the headquarters forwarded it (email) to me. They didn’t want him anymore because he was causing trouble.

“So he was left there and handed over to the authorities and then he was released. 

"When he was released, we, Samoa, was on lockdown so he is still being held in custody, in legal custody by the Customs Corrections. When flights open up he will be brought home. The American authorities don’t want to charge him, it would be a waste of their money so they want to send him back home and it is up to us if we charge him or not.”

Fa'apusa will return home when international flights resume, according to Lautimuia, who added Samoa Shipping Services is not in contact with him as he is in U.S. Customs’ custody. 

“He is in legal custody so we cannot contact him directly. But we are in contact with the agent, M.S.C. in Miami. They are the ones in contact with the authorities to ensure he is taken care of. He’s not in a prison, he is in Customs Corrections.”

Lautimuia refused to name the victim, except to say that he has recovered from his alleged stabbing and is doing well and working on the M.S.C. Armonia.

“He’s okay now,” he added.

The stabbing incident follows an assault case in early April, also alleged to involve an older Samoan sailor, Taulapapa Pa’o Lauiliu on the same ship M.S.C. Armonia.

Lautimuia said Taulapapa allegedly assaulted a supervisor, which led to the termination of his contract. 

“He assaulted an Italian bousan (supervisor)…there was an investigation conducted on the ship and it was confirmed and his contract ended prematurely because of that incident,” he told Samoa Observer. 

“The decision to end his contract prematurely happened during the pandemic, during the close down here in Samoa, so we asked the company if they could continue to accommodate him on the ship for safety reasons and today he is still there.”

Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Lautimuia emphasised that he would not have released information on the two cases involving the two Samoan sailors, as he is mindful of its impact on the job prospects of future local sailors as well as Taulapapa’s family. 

“I never had the intention of releasing that sort of information for obvious reasons especially because of the impact on our work and especially how it would affect vacancies for our Samoan kids and the impact on his [Taulapapa’s] family as well.” 

Taulapapa recently took to social media to plead for help from the Samoa Government. Lautimuia released the information soon afterwards.

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