TWO MORE SUSPECTS ARRESTED IN APIA MURDER OF CABINET MINISTER LUAGALAU

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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO--Two more suspects have been arrested in connection with the shooting death of Samoa’s Minister of Works, the late Member of Parliament Luagalau Levaula Kamu.

Member of Parliament (MP) Leafa Vitale and MP Toi Aukuso have been held in connection with the deadliest incident against a political figure since Samoa, a country of more than 172,000 people, gained independence in 1962.

MP Vitale was demoted earlier this year to Minister of Women’s Affairs during a reshuffling of Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi’s cabinet. He held the post of Minister of Public Works before Kamu.

Last week, Vitale’s eldest son, Eletise Leafa Vitale, appeared in court charged with the murder.

MP Toi appeared before Samoa’s Supreme Court yesterday morning for arraignment under tight security following his arrest the night before.

Reportedly, MP Toi was arrested Tuesday evening at his home in the village of Tuana’imato-ma-Vaimoso, which is his place of residence listed in court documents.

MP Vitale is to appear in court this morning at 9:00 a.m., but what the charges are were unclear at press time.

MP Toi, according to an acquaintance, has a home in the village of Tuana‘imato and has a store in Vaimoso, which is in the vicinity of Apia.

The arrest came after a police search conducted recently at the homes, offices and vehicles of MP Toi and MP Leafa Vitale.

Media reports state the 67-year-old Toi, who represents the Faleata-i-Sisifo District, was escorted by 11-police officers directly from his cell to the Supreme Court. The police escort remained inside the court nearby the suspect during the proceedings.

Since not many residents knew about the latest development, a reporter for the Apia-based newspaper, The Samoa Observer, said only 20 people, including the MP’s wife, were present during yesterday’s proceedings.

Dressed in a black ie faitaga and a white long-sleeve shirt with a tie, the court denied Toi’s attorney’s request for bail and he currently remains in police custody.

Toi is scheduled to appear again in Court on August 12th.

The first suspect in the case is scheduled to appear in Court this Friday at 9:00 a.m.

No additional details were available from Apia regarding the latest development and Police Commissioner Asi James Blakelock was not available for comment yesterday.

Both Leafa Vitale and Toi Aukuso are members of Samoa’s ruling Human Rights Protection Party. It was during the 20th anniversary celebration of the HRPP that Luagalau was shot in the back at close range while talking on his cellular phone to a member of his family.

Since the information regarding the charges was just released yesterday, there has been no local reaction to the latest development in this case that has captured international attention.

Items from the SAMOA NEWS, American Samoa's daily newspaper, may not be republished without permission. To contact the publisher, send e-mail to

CABINET MINISTER AND MP CHARGED WITH SAMOA MURDER OF CABINET MINISTER LUAGALAU

APIA, Samoa (August 4, 1999 – Agence France-Presse)---Police here Wednesday arrested a cabinet minister and charged him with the murder of another cabinet minister as a government Member of Parliament appeared in the Supreme Court facing charges over the same killing.

Works Minister Luagalau Levaula Kamu was killed with a single shot in the back at a social function on July 18 marking the 20th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP).

He had been master of ceremonies at the event and had just introduced Prime Minister Tuila'epa Sailele and had stepped off the stage to take a cellular phone call.

Former Telecommunications Minister, Tio Aukuso, appeared in the Supreme Court Wednesday on murder and conspiracy to murder charges. Police also announced they had arrested a 56-year-old man on murder charges. They did not name him.

But state owned Televise Samoa said the latest arrested man was Women's Affairs Minister Leafa Vitale, who was Works Minister prior to Luagalau's appointment. Leafa's eldest son, Eletise Leafa Vitale, last week appeared in court on a charge of murdering Luagalau.

All three men were in custody for further hearings. No pleas have been entered and the young Vitale will re-appear Thursday.

Samoa has a death penalty for murder but nobody has ever been executed since independence in 1962.

Two days after the killing the Prime Minister said the death had not been political.

"To me it was probably a personal grudge against the minister, or it is probably the work of a nut," he said.

The murder itself deeply shocked Samoa. The latest arrests may threaten the future of the government itself. Both arrested MPs were close friends of the late Prime Minister Tofilau Eti Alesana. He defended them from a succession of claims of corruption.

In the statement Wednesday the Department said Toi and Leafa had been ejected from HRPP.

"The Prime Minister has also terminated earlier today the ministerial appointment of Hon. Leafa Vitale," the release said.

Toi's arrest follows several raids of his mini supermarket at Vaimoso, where he also has a residence, and his home at Tuanaimato.

His Vaimoso residence was recently advertised for sale and he also has other business interests, including a cattle operation.

A heavy smoker, Toi is believed to be suffering from cancer for which he spent months overseas undergoing treatment.

In his political career he was criticized for raising cattle on land belonging to the government owned Western Samoa Trust Estates Corporation for free, winning work from the government owned Electric Power Corporation, and for conflict of interest in the purchase of a saw mill operation from the government.

Leafa and Toi were named several years ago in a major Audit Office report for using Public Works machinery and staff for their own direct benefit.

"This is an outrage and goes against all the principles of responsible, accountable and good government," the report said.

Tofilau's government subsequently had the Auditor-General dismissed for the report.

Michael Field New Zealand/South Pacific Correspondent Agence France-Presse E-mail: afp.nz@clear.net.nz Phone: (64 21) 688438 Fax: (64 21) 694035 Website: http://www.afp.com/english/

THIRD MAN CHARGED WITH MURDER OF SAMOA CABINET MINISTER LUAGALAU

APIA, Samoa (August 5, 1999 – Radio Australia)---A 56-year-old as yet, un-named man, has become the third person to be charged with the murder of Samoa’s Minister of Public Works, Luagalau Levaula Kamu.

Radio Australia correspondent Mike Woods reports.

"The Samoa Supreme Court has suppressed the charged man's name and all other identifying details until he appears again before the court tomorrow.

"He is the third man to be charged in connection with the murder.

"Luagalau Levaula Kamu was shot while taking a mobile phone call during a social function marking the 20th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Human Rights Protection Party.

"Already, Mr. Kamu's cabinet predecessor, 67-year-old Toi Aukuso, and Eletise Leafa Vitale, the son of MP Leafa Vitale, have been charged with murder and conspiracy to murder.

"The latest charges were laid as Leafa Vitale, Samoa's Women's Affairs Minister, was sacked from his government post and from the Human Rights Protection Party.

"Mike Woods, Apia."

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

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