Afualo guilty of bribery

The leader of the Tautua Samoa Party, Afualo Dr. Wood Salele, has been found guilty of bribery by the Supreme Court. 

The court further dismissed three counts of bribery against the Faatuatua ile Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party candidate, Fepuleai Faasavalu Faimata, who is the Member of Parliament-elect for the Salega No. 1 seat. 

Justice Niava Mata Tuatagaloa and Justice Fepuleai Ameperosa Roma delivered the decision this morning. 

The verdict is the second decision from this morning in which candidates who filed legal challenges to electoral results were themselves found guilty of corrupt practices while winning F.A.S.T. candidates were acquitted. 

Afualo's petition was the second brought by the party in the wake of the April election.

The legal action came after the Tautua Samoa called on F.A.S.T. to honour what it said was a verbal agreement to cooperate for the election, including an understanding that the bigger party would stand candidates in the constituencies it wanted to, without competition from Tautua candidates.

F.A.S.T.'s leader and the Prime Minister-elect, Fiame Naomi Mataafa, said she was bemused by the claims by Tautua Samoa 

Afualo's case centred on allegations against Fepuleai about the propriety of church donations made by the Friends4Fiame group to the Methodist Church of Samata-uta the week before the election.

In his evidence, Fepuleai said the donation was made by the third party group without his consent or knowledge.

He also alleged the successful candidate gave $2000 to voters during the Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi during a Savai'i F.A.S.T. roadshow campaign event. 

Fepuleai denied contributing to the $2000 tala handed to the village as compensation for it hosting the party's roadshow. He said that it was gifted to the constituency by the party’s finance committee and the candidates didn’t have any input into the donation. He added that it was not designed to sway voters but compensate the village for their efforts in hosting the roadshow, including putting on food and traditional presentations to the party and was only a fraction of the sum that the village should have rightfully received for their efforts. 

But a counter-petition from Fepuleai against Afualo alleged that he gave $340 tala to the Methodist church of Faiaai on 21 March when delivering a sermon at the church. 

The seat was a closely fought contest. Fepuleai secured 381 votes to Afualo's 373. But the Tautua leader actually came third in the contest. 

The seat's incumbent M.P., Human Rights Protection Party member, Toomata Aki Tuipea, came in second place with 375 votes.

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