SON SPILLS DETAILS OF FATHER'S PLOT TO ASSASSINATE POLITICAL RIVAL LUAGALAU IN SAMOA

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AUCKLAND, New Zealand (August 15, 1999 – Agence France-Presse)---A government ordered closure of a cabinet minister's night club appeared to have been at the heart of Samoa's first political assassination, which saw a cabinet minister murdered, Television New Zealand (TVNZ) reported Sunday, quoting a police confession.

Its report came as a confidential New Zealand diplomatic report obtained by AFP (Agence France-Presse) said the assassination was not a coup attempt by a cabinet minister but rather a case of "a thug running amok."

The minister is Leafa Vitale, until last week Women's Affairs Minister and now in custody on murder and conspiracy to murder Works Minister Luagalau Levaula Kamu, who was killed with a single shot in the back July 18.

The diplomatic report said the alleged killers were also after Prime Minister Tuila‘epa Sailele, Chief Justice Tiavaasue Falefatu Sapolu and Lands Minister Tuala Sale Tagaloa.

Leafa's eldest son, Eletise Leafa Vitale, last week pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to death. His father and former Telecommunication's Minister Toi Aukuso are in custody. Leafa pleaded not guilty to murder and conspiracy to murder while Toi, who had an additional charge of inciting someone to murder the Prime Minister, has not pleaded.

State owned TVNZ said they had the young Vitale's confession to police, which revealed that his father had a night club at Mulinu‘u, near Apia. It was on government land, behind the headquarters of the ruling Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP).

The gunman said in his confession that his father complained that Luagalau was revoking the lease and trying to take everything from him.

"He said 'I want you to do something for us' and I said 'What something?'," TVNZ said, quoting the confession.

"He said 'Me and Toi had a meeting' and they wanted me to fire this gun at the minister, Luagalau.

"He said, 'Do you have guts like your father?' and I said 'Yes, I have guts' I told him. 'So who's going to do the job, or is somebody going to help me?'

He told me 'I want you to do the job because you are my oldest son.'

"And he said 'You better hurry, because if you don't (move) first, Toi's boys will. I want you to do it first before Toi pulls the trigger.' "

He said his father provided the weapon and told him to put "two or three bullets" into the minister's chest.

He went to St Joseph's College hall where HRPP was marking its 20th anniversary, and where his father was present, and saw Luagalau talking on his cellular phone.

"I put the gun mouth, the barrel, between the bricks, and just pulled the trigger. The gun was pointed at Leva's left side. There was a loud bang. It was really loud. A big fire came out the front. Then I pulled the gun and started running straight to the front."

The gunman did not know whether the man was dead, only finding out when he met his father.

"I told him 'Is Leva died?' (sic) and he said, 'Yes, you got him on the right spot.' My father was so happy. His pleasure was released from his body."

The diplomatic report revealed Toi had hired another man who is now a star witness in the case and is in hiding in New Zealand.

The report says Leafa and Toi began by focusing on the Prime Minister but moved to Luagalau who they believed was pushing for changes in the state-owned Electric Power Corporation. The report says the two were "about as wrong on that score as it is possible to be" but their "astonishing lack of judgment" saved the Prime Minister's life.

The two did not believe New Zealand police would be called in and they did not believe charges would be laid. As a result police had collected "quite substantial documentary evidence" on the murder conspiracy.

"It is true, however, that Leafa, if not Toi, appears to have wanted to have the Chief Justice killed as well -- as retribution for ruling against Leafa's interests in a land case in the village of Malie."

That was why they wanted to kill the Lands Minister. That minister was standing beside the Prime Minister the night the Works Minister was killed.

The fact they wanted to kill those two as well is "pretty disturbing if not utterly senseless," but it was not a case of one man trying to take over the government.

"Rather it is that of a thug running amok. To suggest that he was trying to take over the government ascribes in our view far too much system, reason and structure to his actions.

"What we see is a man increasingly out of control as his empire of corruption in the public sector headed for extinction, and he resorted with growing desperation to what he was threatening to do to a large number of people for a long time -- killing those who stood in his way."

SAMOAN ASSASSINATION TERMED "THUG RUNNING AMOK" IN DIPLOMATIC REPORT

By Michael Field

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (August 15, 1999 Agence France-Presse)---A confidential New Zealand diplomatic report says a political assassination in Samoa was not a coup attempt by a cabinet minister but rather a case of "a thug running amok."

The minister is Leafa Vitale, until last week Women's Affairs Minister and now in custody on murder and conspiracy to murder charges.

The report, obtained Sunday, says the alleged killers were also after Prime Minister Tuila‘epa Sailele, Chief Justice Tiavaasue Falefatu Sapolu and Lands Minister Tuala Sale Tagaloa.

It revealed, too, that the star witness, who is named, has been sent to New Zealand but that attempts have already been made to kill him. The document says where he is staying in New Zealand.

AFP (Agence France-Presse) Sunday obtained the four page report written by New Zealand High Commissioner Matt Price ahead of the visit to Samoa of New Zealand Foreign Minister Don McKinnon who arrived Sunday (Saturday Samoa time).

Public Works Minister Luagalau Levaula Kamu was killed with a single shot in the back July 18.

He had been master of ceremonies at a political event and had just introduced the Prime Minister and had stepped off the stage.

Leafa's eldest son, Eletise Leafa Vitale, last week pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to death. His father and former Telecommunication's Minister Toi Aukuso are in custody. Leafa pleaded not guilty to murder and conspiracy to murder while Toi, who had an additional charge of inciting someone to murder the Prime Minister, has not pleaded.

The report says Leafa and Toi began by focusing on the Prime Minister but moved to Luagalau who they believed was pushing for changes in the state-owned Electric Power Corporation. The report says the two were "about as wrong on that score as it is possible to be," but their "astonishing lack of judgment" saved the Prime Minister's life.

The two did not believe New Zealand police would be called in and they did not believe charges would be laid. As a result, police had collected "quite substantial documentary evidence" on the murder conspiracy.

"It is true however that Leafa, if not Toi, appears to have wanted to have the Chief Justice killed as well -- as retribution for ruling against Leafa's interests in a land case in the village of Malie."

That was why they wanted to kill the Lands Minister. That minister was standing beside the Prime Minister the night the works minister was killed.

The fact they wanted to kill those two as well as "pretty disturbing if not utterly senseless," but it was not a case of one man trying to take over the government.

"Rather it is that of a thug running amok. To suggest that he was trying to take over the government ascribes in our view far too much system, reason and structure to his actions.

"What we see is a man increasingly out of control as his empire of corruption in the public sector headed for extinction, and he resorted with growing desperation to what he was been threatening to do to a large number of people for a long time -- killing those who stood in his way."

The person Toi hired is the star witness.

Justice Andrew Wilson suppressed publication of his name.

The paper says the witness was hired by Toi to murder Luagalau.

"It appears that Toi and Leafa were in a sense competing to see which of them could kill Luagalau first."

It says the witness and the junior Vitale had been to the minister's house.

"It was at that point that (the witness) decided that he could not go through with it, and on his way out he passed in the driveway Leafa Junior who was on his way to the house."

The junior Vitale did not go through with it at that point because it was too light.

The New Zealand report says that the witness had had threats from Toi's son Harry and from Leafa's brother.

The document implies the witness was here and the New Zealand Immigration Service had been instructed not to issue a visa to Toi's son, and to consult authorities if any members of Leafa's family sought visas.

It said the two accused were having trouble getting local lawyers and New Zealand lawyers would have to defend them.

"Given that Luagalau himself had once successfully defended Leafa and that Leafa subsequently had him killed, this is perhaps hardly surprising."

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/

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