Apulu slapped with a $3,500 fine
Businessman and former President of the Journalist Association of (Western) Samoa, Apulu Lance Polu, has been convicted and fined $3,500 for use of a forged document.
The court also refused Apulu’s application for a discharge without conviction.
Apulu is the owner of Talamua Media and a business associate of former Cabinet Minister, Laaulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao.
La’auli announced this Thursday he would be forming Samoa’s newest opposition party, F.A.S.T., after his seat was declared vacant, forcing a by-election.
He was initially charged together with La’auli and the former M.P.’s wife, Heather Schmidt; and business associates Tuitui and Martin Schwalger. The court acquitted the charges against all others.
The charges stem from an ongoing dispute over Local Partners and Associates, a nonu company.
The dispute initially began between the accused and a senior Member of Parliament and Associate Minister of the Ministry of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Peseta Vaifou Tevaga.
The Police initially charged Apulu with 51 criminal charges: one count of using a forged document; one charge of forgery; one charge of theft; 16 charges of obtaining by deception; 16 counts of causing loss by deception and an additional 16 counts of theft by relationship.
However, last month the court found him guilty of only one charge: using a forged document and dismissed the remaining charges.
Justice Vui, convicted Apulu and ordered him to pay a fine.
“Firstly a fine of $1,500 secondly noting that a number of witnesses from the bank and the Ministry of [Customs and] Revenue were required for various days for the trial of this charge,” the Judge said in his sentencing remarks.
“You will also pay a contribution towards prosecution costs of $1,000 and $800 towards court costs plus you will pay probation office costs $200.
“The total sum of $3,500 and it is payable forthwith at the close of business today [if it is] in default you will serve six months in prison”.
During his ruling of this case last month, Justice Vui noted that in all criminal cases it is always tempting for defendants (with the possible exception of Mr Polu who has been found guilty of one charge) to regard “not guilty” findings as vindication.
“I would caution the defendants particularly the outspoken first defendant against this,” Justice Vui said.
He said in every criminal trial the prosecution bears the particularly difficult burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime has been committed.
“That is our law,” he said.
“In this case there was evidence of criminal activity but the correctly rigorous standard of proof required by the law could not be attained.
“It is an issue of evidence and credibility thereof and whether it was sufficient to meet these tests. The court has found with one exception that they did not. Nothing more than that should be made of it.”