Mechanic tells of wrongful arrest
A mechanic has told the Commission of Inquiry investigating the conduct of suspended Assistant Police Commissioner, Samoa Mulinu’u, that he was unlawfully arrested and kept in a jail cell for two hours.
Si’iloto Natano Peneueta, 53, made the claim before a Cabinet appointed Commission of Inquiry chaired by retired Supreme Court Justice Lesatele Rapi Va’ai with members including Tavui Annie Laumea, Namulau’ulu Sami Leota and Apostle Viliamu Mafo’e.
The Inquiry has been tasked by Cabinet to hear evidence on allegations against Samoa in his handling of the criminal matter against Si’iloto. He is also accused of tampering with witnesses in the District Court case of Police v Mauga Precious Chang.
In his evidence before the Inquiry, Si’iloto said a man named Letoa Amosa came to him looking for a car. The car that was available was for $5,000 however Amosa only had $3,000.
After two weeks, Amosa returned with $3,000 and was told that unless the $5,000 is paid, the vehicle will not be released to him.
“Within a month another $500 was dropped off to my house.”
The Commission heard that Si’iloto left for New Zealand and upon his return, Amosa demanded his money back.
“I told him that I had used the money for my trip,” Si’iloto said. “A week later police officers came and took me into the police station.”
The mechanic said he did not want to make a written statement and had asked for a lawyer.
“In the middle of the interrogations, Samoa wanted to see me at his office. I went to Samoa’s office and we spoke about the incident. I tried to plead with him about what had happened, however Samoa threatened to arrest me, if I didn’t pay him the money right then and there.”
Si’iloto said Samoa accused him of fraud.
“Despite efforts trying to explain my case, it was unsuccessful as Samoa kept on saying that I will be arrested if I don’t pay the money.”
Si’iloto said he was arrested and taken to a cell where he was held for close to two hours. A Court Registrar arrived and released him later.
During cross examination, Samoa’s lawyer, Afa Lesa, noted that Samoa’s testimony was that he did not threaten to arrest Peneueta.
Aside from Samoa, Corporal Hillary Eteuati and former Inspector Luatimu Samau were also subject of the Commission of Inquiry.
The case against Eteuati has been removed from the Commission’s work since he is facing the same charges in the Supreme Court.
The heading of allegations against Inspector Luatimu Samau was scheduled for 23 June 2017.
However, lawyer Sefo Ainu’u informed the Commission that witnesses being summoned in the case against Samau were available and they could give evidence.
Samau is accused of tampering with witnesses in the District Court case of Police v Mauga Precious Chang. His conduct and performance in discharging his duties as a police Inspector is also under scrutiny.
Superintendent Tuaena Lomano Paulo took the stand and informed the Commission that Samau attempted to interfere in the case against Precious Chang.
In a written statement sent to the Commissioner of Police, Tuaena explained he did not in any way or manner ask Samau to render assistance in the case given there were other investigating officers assigned to the case.
“He came into my office uninvited and asked me about the file on Precious Chang. I told him, the case file is before the Commissioner.”
Tuaena also recalled an encounter with the former Police Minister Sala Fata Pinati.
“I was instructed by the Minister to heed the advise by Samau but I told him no, I did not instruct Samau to investigate the case against Precious Chang,” Tuaena said.
“The Minister told me to tell the truth and whatever issue that I have with Samau, we need to sort it out."
“I told the Minister my report is clear and will remain the same and that Samau was not instructed to investigate the traffic case."
“Yet the Minister tried to persuade me to change my mind.”
The hearing continues.