5 Sep 2013

New allegations of corruption at Samoa's Tafaigata prison

4:44 pm on 5 September 2013

A Commission of Inquiry into allegations of corruption at Tafaigata prison in Samoa has taken a new turn, with the attorney general's office now stepping into assist with the inquiry.

The police commissioner, Lilomaiava Fou Taioalo, and assistant commissioner who heads Tafaigata prison, Seaga Uili Lafaele, have been suspended as the inquiry into conditions at the prison gets underway.

Our correspondent, Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia, told Moera Tuilaepa-Taylor government inquiries usually involve the attorney general's office, so it came as a surprise when the government announced this inquiry was being led by the ombudsman's office.

AUTAGAVAIA TIPI AUTAGAVAIA: The question has also been asked because now the media is reporting that lawyers from the attorney general's (office) are now stepping in and involved in the Commission of Inquiry. I think the cabinet did not mention that in the cabinet paper that was announced. And also this is the first Commission of Inquiry announced by the government. The terms of reference are not made known to the public as is the usual practise of all Commissions of Inquiry. And also some questions are now being asked why.

MOERA TUILAEPA-TAYLOR: And why did this Commission of Inquiry start? Where did these allegations first come from?

ATA: Even that information, Moera, it's not mentioned in any of these announcements from the cabinet, like their usual practise when they appointed a Commission of Inquiry. All we know, and it's been widely appointed by the media, was this letter from the former police officer who was working at the Tafaigata prison, and she's been terminated. She wrote all these allegations in a letter to the prime minister, and it's been widely reported that that's the result of this Commission of Inquiry. And it's said by that cabinet decision that it's about the allegations in Tafaigata prison. but they did not say what allegations. All I can tell you, because I have a copy of that letter from that former police officer who used to work at the Tafaigata prison, it's a lot of allegations, it's very serious allegations.

MTT: And also a very high-profile investigation into the police commissioner who has a lot of powers, and also his assistant.

ATA: Yes, of course. And all I can tell you now, and the reason why the commissioner of police is also part of the suspension, is because there are allegations that the commissioner and one of his assistants who was heading the Tafaigata prison are very close.

MTT: Because, I see, interesting that the prime minister must have made a statement last week that the suspension of the top police officers was to ensure they would not influence the outcome of this investigation. So interesting that, obviously, the prime minister must have concerns, as well.

ATA: Well, if he was the recipient of the letter he must be concerned.