AMERICAN SAMOA LT. GOVERNOR ARRESTED BY FBI

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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (Samoa News, Sept. 10) – American Samoa Lt. Gov. Ipulasi Aitofele Sunia was taken into custody over the weekend by the FBI based on a federal arrest warrant and was then transported to Honolulu on board a military plane.

Ipulasi reportedly surrendered himself to the FBI on Saturday morning at an undisclosed location under a very discreet arrangement with the federal agency that included Honolulu-based FBI supervisor Tom Glorioso, who had arrived on island late last week.

The Lt. Governor was taken to Honolulu on board a C-140 U.S. Coast Guard aircraft. The plane is purported to have left on the same morning of his arrest.

The U.S. Coast Guard plane arrived last Thursday to bring back two TCF inmates that were to testify in the federal case against former TCF warden Mika Kelemete.

Messages left with Glorioso and the FBI's spokesman Tony Lang in Honolulu seeking comments were not returned at press time.

Samoa News understands that Ipulasi is to be officially charged under a federal indictment currently under seal at the federal court. It was not immediately clear if the Honolulu or Washington D.C. federal court will handle this case.

As of yesterday Ipulasi's name does not appear on today's court calenders for Honolulu or Washington.

Last year Ipulasi retained the Washington D.C. based law firm of Covington & Burling to handle his defense during the U.S. Justice Department probe.

At the time, Ipulasi said in a letter to family members that he hired this firm to defend him against "the false allegations that federal prosecutors are threatening to file against me in a federal court in Washington".

Investigation by the law firm "has found no evidence of wrongdoing by me. I am innocent and I intend to fight the federal government as hard as is necessary to clear my name," he wrote.

[PIR editor’s note: According to The Associated Press, a government committee last September recommended Sunia be placed on leave and his name removed from the ballot because he was being investigated for allegations of corruption, violation of purchasing laws and misappropriation of public funds in transactions related to a company owned by him and his wife. Tulafono called the investigation a witch hunt during an election year. Tulafono and Sunia were re-elected in November. The AP also reported that more than 20 armed FBI agents raided the U.S. territory's government offices Thursday, blocking the entrances to the offices of the governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.]

Lanny A. Breuer with Covington & Burling was in the territory around May and met with Ipulasi's family members. Because it was the weekend, an e-mail message seeking comments from Breuer was not immediately answered.

Early last year, Samoa News learned that Ipulasi was advised by the FBI to consider hiring an attorney to counsel him regarding the federal investigation of the local Department of Education. The investigation focuses on the time when Ipulasi was government Treasurer.

In early March 2005, about 20 federal agents executed federal search warrants on the offices of the Lt. Governor and Attorney General and the main ASG [American Samoa Government] computer room at the Executive Office Building in Utulei.

The governor's radio program held each Saturday, was cancelled for this last Saturday, with no explanation. Ipulasi often substituted for the governor when he was off island.

The Governor was slated to arrive last night, along with the Attorney General.

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