27 Apr 2011

First verdict delivered in Samoa election petition hearings

7:21 pm on 27 April 2011

The first of eight election petition rulings in Samoa's Electoral Court has found both the petitioner, the former HRPP MP Moefa'auo Lufilufi and the respondent, the current ruling party MP Ala'isa Filipo Schwartz Hunt, guilty of bribery.

The presiding judges also declared Mr Schwartz-Hunt's parliamentary seat void, which means a by-election will have to be held just weeks after the general election.

Our correspondent in Apia, Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia, says the ruling relates to proven allegations of giving money to electors before last month's poll.

"The allegations against the respondent proven were three. These are the allegations of giving 100 tala, 50 tala and 200 tala to several electors of different villages of the lower Ma'a East constituency. But the petitoner has also been found guilty of five bribery counter allegations."

Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia says both parties have been disqualified from taking part in elections for five years.