Who is telling the truth here, who is telling lies?

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Gatoaitele Savea Sano Malifa

On Wednesday this week a press statement from the Attorney General, Lemalu Hermann Retzlaff, arrived. Explaining that the statement was merely addressing media inquiries alleging government corruption, it seemed the writer was either being evasive or perhaps he was being diplomatic,  we could not tell.

Wrote Lemalu: “I can confirm that a formal Police investigation was launched on 6th June 2018, by the Ministry of Police Criminal Investigation Division, in view of a complaint alleging corrupt practises by a Government CEO.”

He went on to say: “The records of the allegations were sent to the Attorney General and received 5th June 2018. After consideration it was referred by the A.G. to the Police Commissioner, with a recommendation that a criminal investigation commence immediately given the nature of the allegations. 

“The Minister overseeing the CEO, the Acting Prime Minister and also the Prime Minister who is on travel duty, were then informed for their information, that this process has been activated by law enforcement agencies.”

Lemalu  warned:  “The  allegations are serious and do require looking into.  The Police have confirmed today that the recommendation for a formal investigation has been accepted, and that a team has been appointed to undertake the task and follow procedures as required, including being mindful of the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.”

That was three days ago.

At the time, the Samoa Observer had received a letter from the “Former Member of Parliament, of the Government of India, Sh.P.K Bansal.”

The letter revealed that “Mr Bansal is also the Executive Director of the company called Ascent Navals, SCO 373 Sector 37 D, Chandigarh.”

It said:

Dear Editor

Samoa Observer

Apia,

Samoa.

Please find herewith the attached copy of the letter and email sent to Samoa PSC and others regarding one of the corrupt CEO. 

In case they sweep this serious matter under the carpet, I’m forwarding it here so that you can use (it) and people of Samoa to put a stop to these corrupt officials. 

Please do let us know if any thing else (is) needed. 

I am standing by.

Sincerely,

Sh.P.K Bansal.

On Wed, 6 Jun 2018, Savea Sano Malifa, responded, saying:

Dear Mr Sh.P.K Bansal,

We are in receipt of your letter about the alleged corruption of CEO of MWTI, namely Su’a Pou Onesemo. 

We are sorry to hear of the problems you are going through as a result of his alleged corruption. I am very concerned about what is going on, since it seems as though our government is being drawn into this controversy. 

As a member of the media in Samoa who operate the Samoa Observer, we ask that you help us in the investigation we are doing

From my understanding you are no longer a member of parliament. Would you be kind enough to let us know why this has happened.

We appreciate your help in this matter and we look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible.

Thank you very much,

Savea Sano Malifa

Editor-in-Chief

Samoa Observer

In response, P.K. Bansal wrote.

Dear Savea Sano Malifa good day to you

Thanks for your mail and assurance for assistance.

We are ready to support if any thing else required.

With thanks and regards

P .K Bansal.

Still, in another email in June 2018 to Noumea@mfat.gov.ws, fracella@mfat.gov.ws, constancetr@ag.gov.ws, attorney general@ag.gov.ws, and Faleniu.alesana@mwti.gov.ws, Sh.P.K Bansal wrote: 

Dear Respected All,

Subject: Report on CEO for Ministry of Works, Transport and infrastructure and his corrupt practices.

Mr Bansal wrote: “Please allow me to report to your good office the corrupt and illegal practices of MWTI CEO, Mr. Su’a Pou Onesemo, that he has been doing to me and my company.

For transparency, we the board of directors of the Ascent Navals company through our director General Capt Suniel. K. Sharma applied to become a Recognised Organisation (RO) when MWTI advertised last year.

“Up till now, all I am receiving from this CEO is lies and excuses without a proper update of my application. I know we have been betrayed by Mr. Onesemo and more worse, he has been asking favour and use us in many ways on pretext of authorising us as RO.

“These are some of the alleged corrupt favours that Mr. Onesemo had asked us to do and in return, he would authorise our company to act as the R.O. for Samoa.

1. He demanded huge amount of cash to buy 3 properties in Australia through an agreement made as it is yet not signed due to immediate demand of amount to procure properties (can be submitted if needed). CCTV Footage of meeting at hotel can also be arranged for your good self.

2.  To finalise that deal, he asked us to pay air tickets for him and his family to come to Singapore during his duty travel to Australia (attached).

3. During that trip, he demanded a huge amount of $500000 AUD and suggested to go ahead with promotion of vessel registration etc. while awaiting signing of agreement of authorisation.

4. Upon return to Australia on 7th Oct.2017 same day he again called if I am agree to pay him the deal amount (it was recorded in phone too). Then upon return to Samoa he forwarded unofficially the drafted copy of the RFP being prepared at AG Office just to show to us if things are according to us and based on that, he asked to give him the deal amount when he is coming back officially to Singapore in February 2018 .

5. His plan is to share equal benefits from vessels registration and also he will keep receiving amount every month.

6. He demanded me to provide a mechanic as manager for his garage in Samoa and I fund for the garage and motor Parts.(All process of documentation for work permit of the mechanic was processed by Mr. Pou’s wife.

7. Recently while asking him about our Status of application he again made excuses by saying that he is presently removing some corrupt people. By hearing again excuse our official asked him that  corrupted person cannot remove corruption.

On this he sent a threatening message on the phone to our Director General, where he warned him not to come to Samoa or he’d face the consequences he’d rightly deserve.

Now it seems he has turned the blame on our company but all these he settled during the meeting he requested In Singapore. Please refer to attached picture taken after the meeting.

My great concern is that this corrupt behaviour of this government CEO is really ruining the good esteem name of Samoa. Also I don’t know how would government progress with its development if this is a kind of leader that betray the trust of Hon. Prime Minister and his good government.

I am still waiting for an update of my company’s application to become an RO as we are very much keen to use our expertise and global network to serve and bring great benefits to Samoa and its people.

For ease of reference, please find the copies of all documents to support my letter of complaint, as the government of Samoa needs to stop this CEO from his corrupt and illegal behaviour, in order for its maritime activities to move forward to a better future.

Sincerely,

Sh.P.K.Bansal.

In an interview with the Samoa Observer, Su’a Pou Onesemo had a different story to tell.

He said it all began in 2014 when the Indian company, Ascent Navals, approached the Samoan government with the idea of establishing what would be known, as Samoa’s International Maritime Authority (SIMA).

The company would be in charge of vessel registry in Samoa and it was from there, that all these allegations of corruption started, Su’a explained.

Indeed, they started when the Indian company, Ascent Navals, was removed from the so-called “recruitment process,” and since then, friction had become quite rampant, and it is still so today.

In 2015, the company was declared fraudulent by the Samoan  government, and as it turned out, this was apparently done without the knowledge of the CEO at the time, Va’aelua Nofo. 

Revealed Su’a: “In January 2016, when I was appointed ACEO Maritime, I was advised to consider starting a vessel registry.”  

He said that was when he recommended that Cabinet’s approval for a vessel registry should be sought, explaining that with such a project there was bound to be ample economic benefits for Samoa with registry fees and job opportunities on locally registered vessels. (Read Su’a’s letter in full)

Needless to say therefore, Su’a maintains the allegations that have been made publicly against him and his family are quite unfair, and for that very reason he’s just going to ignore what he’s been accused of, and move on with his life.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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