Hearing of alleged passport sale begins

The trial of a former Immigration Officer, David Nomereta Uaine, accused of the sale of Samoan passports started yesterday.

Uaine faces 32 criminal charges, including forgery, corruption, bribery,  improper issue of Samoan travel documents, unlawful recording of information from the passport database and false representation. 

The five-day trial is presided over by Supreme Court Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren. 

Prosecuting is Lucymaria Sio-Ofoia, of the Attorney General’s Office. 

She told the Court they intend to call 26 witnesses, including Police Investigators; Immigration Officers and the Assistant Chief Immigration Officer, Siaopo Pese.

Uaine, of Afega, is represented by lawyer, Unasa Iuni Sapolu. 

According the charge sheet, four Samoan passports were allegedly sold between December 2016 and May 2017 and in return amounts received range from $684.24, $980.71, $382.80 and $2,092 on four different occasions.

The passports were issued in the names of Dave Afele Allen; Mark Filo Hamden; Franco Fitu Rudolf and Miriama Kaba Hugo.

The first witness to take the stand was Immigration Principal Officer, Leiataua Falaniko, who oversees the Passports Division. 

He explained the process to the Court and what is required for a passport such as birth certificate; two photos, marriage certificate (if married) and adoption order (if adopted). 

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According to Leiataua, there are several stages that must be completed before the passport application reaches him for final approval.

“After the form is completed, it’s then entered into the Travel and Related Documents Issuance System (T.A.R.D.I.S.) and then the application is handed back to the applicant to pay for the passport fee to the cashier afterwards then to the researcher to determine if there is anything else needed,” he said. 

“And once all the requirements are met, then it’s passed on to the authorizer.”

After printing, it goes into the lamination process and then the passport is released to its owner. 

He also explained that within the passport division, one must enter a username and password in order to access the T.A.R.D.I.S. system. 

“This means that immigration officers cannot use the username and password of another officer, this should be guarded with your life, it’s for security reasons,” he explained. 

Prosecutor Sio-Ofoia directed the attention of Leiataua to the printout from the T.A.R.D.I.S. system of the passport issued in the name of Franco Fitu Rudolf on 12 May, 2017. 

The prosecutor asked Leiataua if he recalls the passport application in question, given that he authorized the passport, as indicated on the printout. 

Leiataua responded: “I have never seen this application before and although my name is outlined as the authorizer, I say with a clean heart that I did not authorize that passport. 

He added: “There are times I leave my desk and my computer is open and this is when I know someone uses my username. 

“I sometimes forget to log out of my computer when I take a break for coffee; and I know that someone uses my computer to conduct these wrong doings.”

The hearing continues. 

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