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Court denies further deference of conspiracy to murder case

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, SAMOA – 01 MARCH 2023: The Supreme Court Senior Judge, Vui Clarence Nelson has denied the Prosecution’s application to defer the longstanding case of conspiring to murder against Malele Paulo aka King Faipopo and Lema’i Sione.

The Prosecution applied for an adjournment to await the legal process underway in Australia to extradite the third defendant, Talalelei Pauga to stand trial together with the two defendants.

The application was denied and Justice Nelson set the hearing on 13 March and ordered all counsels involved in the matter to make this case a priority given that the defendants were charged in 2019.

Justice Nelson also pointed out the breach of the defendant’s constitutional rights if the matter is again dragged on.

In August 2019, Malele Paulo, Lema’i Sione and Talalelei Pauga were charged with conspiracy to murder then Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi.

They all pleaded not guilty to the charge.

On 11th October 2019, Prosecution added Taualai Leiloa as a third defendant in the conspiracy to commit murder.

Taualai pleaded guilty and the Court sentenced him to prison while Malele and Lema’i were placed under police custody.

The case dragged on with pre-trial applications for bail of the two defendants and for the Court permission to have Malele, an Australian resident be extradited to stand trial in Samoa.

The Court noted that the extradition application was strongly resisted by Pauga and his Australian lawyers which resulted in numerous proceedings and challenges before the Court.

“The Court is not clear if a copy of the charge or a summon was served on Pauga,” said Justice Nelson.

He also said the Court was advised that a warrant of arrest was issued for Pauga’s non-appearance in Court.

The validity of the warrant of arrest was also challenged in Court and a decision to that matter is yet to be delivered.

“At this point and time, it is not known exactly which time and date, when or possibly if, Pauga can be extradited to Samoa to stand trial,” said Justice Nelson.

Prosecution was optimistic that getting Pauga to stand trial in Samoa will happen this year but Justice Nelson thought differently.

“The fact of the matter is, Court proceedings in Australia and Samoa have been on for the past 3 years and there is no guarantee when Pauga will appear in Samoa,” he said.

On 23rd February 2023, the Prosecution charged Pauga as a co-conspirator and sought an adjournment so he be tried together with Malele and Lema’i.

That application was denied and the matter is now scheduled for hearing on 13 March 2023.