SAMOA LAWMAKER IMPLICATED IN LAND TITLE FRAUD

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Member of Parliament Toluono in doubious deal

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, August 8, 2010) - Member of Parliament for Palauli-i-Falefa Toluono Feti Toluono is named in a dubious land ownership transfer.

He is registered in official documents as the owner of a piece of land at Tuana΄imato near Apia. However the land’s original owner, Mrs. Maka Rosita Burke, says she still owns it. She insists she has not sold her land.

According to official documents the land transfer was witnessed by lawyer Tuimaleali΄ifano Eti Va΄aletoa. His signature appears in the deed of ownership as the “Solicitor for the Purchaser.”

Burke lives in Hamilton, New Zealand. Her signature on the land transfer document appears to have been forged.

She maintained during an interview on Friday she did not sell her land.

Burke was born in Sa΄asa΄ai, Savai΄i, on 2 September 1946. Her maiden name is Maka Rosita Stowers.

She went to New Zealand, met her husband there and married; since then they’ve been in Hamilton with their family.

On 16 July 1981, Burke inherited a piece of land from her "aunt" Estelle Churchward, wife of a retired accountant; the couple lived in Apia.

Located at Tuana΄omato the land is described as “Parcel 1196 being parts of Parcels 973 and 974 Fur V Upolu and part of the land registered in VOLUME 9 FOLIO 151 of the Land Register of Western Samoa as the same is more particularly delineated on Plan 4317 deposited in the Office of the Director of Lands at Apia."

In one of the relevant official documents Mrs. Churchward is recorded as saying she "gifted" the piece of land to Rosita Stowers "in consideration of the natural love and affection" she had for her. The deed of conveyance was signed by the Commissioner of Inland Revenue on 7 August 1981.

Over the years Mr. & Mrs. Burke visited Samoa on their holidays. And in all those times they drove up to Tauna΄imato and went past their land there thinking about the future. One of these days, they thought to themselves, they would build a house there.

But it was always Sa΄asa΄ai in Savaii where Mrs Burke was born that her mind was focused. It is where her heart lies. So that after taking a peek at their land at Tuana΄imato they traveled to Savai΄i and spent most of their holidays there.

About two weeks ago – on 27 July to be exact – Mrs & Mrs Burke again visited Samoa for a short holiday. This time they drove up to Tuana΄imato to have a look at their land

"It was the first thing we did when we arrived," Burke said during an interview last week.

And what they saw gave them the shock of their lives.

"We were completely surprised," Mrs Bourke said. "The land was gone. It was no longer there."

Instead a house stood on what used to be their land "and all the coconut trees" have been felled and clear away.

"We were shocked," the Burkes said. "A fence (is installed around) our two quarter acre section and there were no coconut trees anywhere."

Later at the Lands and Registration Office Mrs. Burke discovered her land had changed ownership. It was now owned by a couple named Perise and Sapati Fili of Alamagoto to whom it had been sold for WST47,893.00 [US$19,000].

Mrs Burke also found out her land had been sold by the Member of Parliament for Palauli-i-Falefa Toluono Feti Toluono, who had somehow gained ownership of it on 10 August 2007.

Further investigation revealed Mrs Burke’s signature had been forged. Her signature in her New Zealand passport has no resemblance whatsoever to that which appears in the deed of ownership transfer.

In the deed of transfer the "vendor" is "Rosita Burke nee Stowers of Alafua" and the "purchaser" is "Toulono Feti Toluono of Vaitele."

It says Toluono had paid Mrs Burke WST80,000 [US$32,000] for her land, a claim Burke has disputed.

"All I want is my land back," she said. According to official documents though, the transfer of ownership was witnessed by lawyer Tuimaleali’ifano Eti Va’aletoa, who is also Deputy Head of State.

His signature appears in the deed of ownership as the "Solicitor for the Purchaser."

Furthermore it seems Mrs Burke’s signature had been forged. Her signature in her New Zealand passport has no resemblance to that which appears in the deed of ownership transfer.

Toluono yesterday denied he had anything to do with the land sales.

"I have nothing to do with any of them," he said.

"But your signature is on the documents," he was told.

"They did everything," he insisted. "All I did was signed."

However he did admit he knew the couple Perise and Sapati Fili.

"Perise is my relative," he said. "She asked about a piece of land (and he referred her to the others)."

"But did he get any money from the WST47,893 the couple had paid for the land?" he was asked

He did not say. The other signatures on the land "transfer" document are those of lawyers Tima Leavai and Treena F. Atoa of T.F Atoa Barrister and Solicitor.

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