11 Mar 2004

Samoan couple guilty of conspiracy to defeat course of justice

8:19 am on 11 March 2004

A Samoan couple have been found guilty of conspiracy to defeat the course of justice by helping a man escape sentencing for manslaughter.

Ricky Ponifasio Westerlund and his wife Luisa, were remanded in custody until sentencing on March 23, after Justice Vui Clarence Nelson said he believed they might try to leave the country

Justice Nelson said that Luisa, who is Ropati Nauer's sister, arranged for a replacement passport and an emergency visa to be issued to facilitate Nauer's departure from Samoa.

In January 2002, Luisa phoned a friend Avarua Laulala, who operates a travel agency.

On her instructions, Laulala's staff arranged for a passport for Nauer from Immigration Division official Siapo Pese.

The visa was obtained from the New Zealand High Commission in Apia.

The court cited testimony from a long-term associate of Luisa's family, saying that helping Nauer escape was easy because she knew people in high places.

The involvement of her husband Ricky in the conspiracy was to deliver Nauer to Faleolo airport.