27 Nov 2018

Notorious Samoa prisoners to remain at police cells

12:30 pm on 27 November 2018

Two prisoners in Samoa, who allegedly masterminded an aborted mass breakout, will serve the rest of their life sentences in the cells of the main police station in Apia.

Samoan police headquarters in Apia

Samoan police headquarters in Apia Photo: RNZI/Sally Round

The Prisons and Corrections Minister, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt, announced the decision in a letter to the Prisons and Corrections Commissioner, Taitosaua Edward Winterstein, in which he also accused the commissioner of "not telling the truth".

The Samoa Observer reported that in the letter, dated 9 November, the minister accused Taitosaua of not informing him of the threat to prison security posed by notorious drug lord Tagaloasa Filipaina.

"I am extremely disappointed that you did not tell me the truth and you had embarrassed me in front of the Prime Minister.

"You are the Commissioner and one of your mandates is to give advice that is fair accurate, and from that I make my decision for the betterment of the Prisons for not telling the truth that Tagaloasa Filipaina threatens the security of the prison," Tialavea said.

Tagaloasa and fellow inmate, Ovaleni Poli Viali, were moved from the prison to the police cells in February for allegedly masterminding the aborted breakout as cyclone Gita approached the islands.

In February, the Observer reported about 90 police raided the prison after receiving information about the planned escape.

The previous month, Filipaina was released to attend his matai bestowal ceremony despite being refused parole five times.

At the time, Tialavea said the prisoner was not considered a risk to the public even though he was being held in a special section of the prison reserved for those considered high risk of flight and posing danger to others.

The minister later admitted he knew nothing about the release.

There have been court challenges to have the two men moved back to the prison and the minister, after agreeing, has now decided they will stay in the police cells.

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