Assassin to become Police witness

Alatise Leafa Vitale, the man convicted for Samoa's first ever political assassination, will be called as a witness for the prosecution in the trial of two men alleged to have plotted to carry out its second.

Vitale will appear as a Police witness in the case against Paulo Malele - also known as King Faipopo - and Lema’i Sione who are facing two counts of conspiracy to murder the Prime Minister.

Unasa Iuni Sapolu, the men's defence lawyer, confirmed that Vitale would appear in court for the prosecution.

“So far that [Vitale's] affidavit we have been served with and we expect that these people who have given a sworn affidavit will all appear in court, during the bail hearing,” she said in an interview with the Samoa Observer outside court on Monday. 

This Wednesday will be the bail hearing for two of the man accused of conspiring to murder the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr Sailele Malielegaoi. 

The men have been in custody since they were arrested last month. 

On Friday they were transferred from cells at the new Tanumalala Prison to Police headquarters at Apia in an operation that took place under heavy Police security. 

A third man accused of joining the conspiracy, Taualai Leiloa, has already pleaded guilty and will be sentenced at the end of this month, September 30. He has been remanded on bail.  

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Co-defendants Sione and Paulo pleaded not guilty to two counts of conspiracy to murder.

The revelation comes 20 years after Samoa's only political assassination. The late Luagalau Levaula Kamu, was shot at point blank range during the 20th anniversary of the Human Rights Protection Party at St Joseph's College hall, Alafu on July 16, 1999.

Tuilaepa revealed in the launching of his memoir "Pālemia" in 2017 that he was the intended target of the assassination plot.

Vitale served 11 years in jail for that offence. He is back behind bars after Police revoked his probation this may after he was alleged to have breached his parole conditions by associating with former convicts. 

Vitale was convicted and sentenced to death in 2000 for the assassination of former Cabinet Minister, the late Luagalau Levaula Kamu. He was granted bail in 2010 after he was pardoned by the Head of State and had his sentence commuted to life imprisonment.

Police earlier alleged the conspiracy involved money changing hands between alleged plotters.

The investigation is examining at least one financial transfer from a person or entity based in Australia as part of an investigation into possible financial links between the alleged conspirators. 

“Evidence alleges planning of a weapon, transportation and that cash was exchanged between the conspirators,” the statement said. 

The Village council of Lauli'i - which first alerted authorities about the alleged plot last month - unsuccessfully searched local houses for signs of a weapon understood to have been linked to the plot last week.

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