Application by alleged P.M. plotters denied

The Supreme Court has denied an application by two men, who have been accused of conspiring to assassinate the Prime Minister, to leave the country.

Justice Vui Clarence Nelson, in a four-page decision on Wednesday, ruled that the application by defendants, Lemai Faioso Sione of Nuu and Tuasivi Savai’i and Malele Paulo – better known as King Faipopo, of Vailoa Aleipata and Australia – to leave the jurisdiction lacks merit.

“There is no doubting of the seriousness of the allegation especially when involving an occupant of high office such as the present case. To this charge the pleaded not guilty and trial scheduled for the week commencing 9 November 2020,” Justice Vui ruled.

“Unsurprisingly, Police oppose both applications. In respect of Malele Paulo they point inter alia to his tenuous ties to Samoa, the fact that he ordinarily resides in Australia where his wife and children presently live and the fact that he is a permanent resident of that country.

“For Lema’i Sione, the absence of documents supporting his application, the fact that he too is a permanent resident of Australia, and that his wife and daughters will also be travelling to support the birth of their grandchild.”

Sione wanted to visit his wife and three daughters in time for the birth of their first grandchild and for a medical check-up. While Malele wanted to visit his wife and family in Sydney, Australia.

However, Justice Vui noted that no supporting medical or other documents that would verify the pregnancy of Sione’s daughter and the necessity for him to receive medical treatment in Australia, were provided to the court.

Sione is a permanent resident of Australia and “it appears from his wife’s affidavit filed in support of an original bail application that she was resident in Australia until the charges were laid against her husband”, added Justice Vui in his ruling.

Justice Vui also made reference to the extradition treaty that currently exists between Samoa and Australia, and while acknowledging the seriousness of the charge that the two defendants currently face in the Supreme Court, he ruled that the process to undertake to bring them back to face the court can be lengthy and cumbersome.

He said this is often the case for citizens and permanent residents of a country as opposed to non-citizens and non-residents.

For Malele, Justice Vui ruled that the risk of his failing to return for trial from his home country is extreme.

“I am also not persuaded as to the bona fides for his trip in this day and age of easily accessible video and other forms of communication with family members,” he said in his judgement. 

“I am also mindful trial day is a little over three months away and if the defendant genuinely wishes as he says to clear his name, no unreasonable or unduly burdensome effort will be required for his continued stay.”

And while not convinced of the reasons put forward by Sione’s lawyer to be granted permission to leave jurisdiction, Justice Vui added that the ease of communication with Australia can address some of his concerns in relation to his family.

The recent declaration of a COVID-19 lockdown in Melbourne and the whole Victorian State of Australia was not lost on Justice Vui, who said it is in the defendant’s interest to remain in COVID-free Samoa.

“It is also relevant that at present Melbourne and the State of Victoria is in lockdown due to the increasing number of Coronavirus cases. I take judicial notice of the fact that its airports and ports are closed and that according to the Victoria State Government website their State of Emergency has been extended at this stage to 16 August 2020,” Justice Vui stated.

“There is no sign of this abating so that even if permission were given, the defendant would be barred from travelling. It is perhaps in his best interests to stay in Covid-free Samoa because people should run away from risk and toward it.”

“No amount of surety bond in cash or otherwise overcomes the risks that are apparent and inherent in allowing the defendants at this point in time to travel to Australia. The application lacks merit and is accordingly denied.”

The prosecutor at the proceedings was Magele Leone Sua Mailo with Unasa Iuni Sapolu the defense counsel.

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