Former Cabinet Minister, La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Schmidt, is facing a total of 161 charges in a hearing that has now been referred to the Supreme Court.
La’auli returned to the District Court yesterday morning, where he appeared with his wife Heather Tupea, and business associates, Apulu Lance Polu, Martin Schwalger and Tuitui Aipulupo.
The defendants face a total of 233 criminal charges, in relation to an on-going dispute over a nonu company involving another senior member of the ruling Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P) and Associate Minister of the Ministry of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Peseta Vaifou Tevaga.
According to the criminal charges document obtained by the Samoa Observer, La’auli is facing one count of forgery; 40 charges of theft; 16 for obtaining by deception; 16 counts of causing loss by deception and 88 charges of theft by a person in a special relationship.
La’auli’s wife faces one count of theft, three charges of causing loss by deception and three charges of theft by relationship.
For Apulu, he faces a total of 51 criminal charges, namely one count of using a forged document, one charge of forgery; one charge for theft; 16 charges of obtaining by deception; 16 counts of causing loss by deception and an additional 16 counts of theft by relationship.
Tuitui faces seven charges of causing loss by deception and six criminal counts of theft by a person in a special relationship while Martin Schwalger faces one count of forgery.
La’auli and his co-defendants appeared before District Court Judge Fepulea’i Ameperosa Roma.
In the end, the matter was referred to the Supreme Court following an application by Senior Prosecutor, Leone Su’a-Mailo, in light of additional charges filed last week Friday.
Lawyer Luatutu Andre Volentras is representing all five defendants.
Su’a-Mailo argued before the Court the new charges filed fell under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.
“The additional charges include forgery and theft by a person in a special relationship and those charges of which all five defendants are charged with,” said the Prosecutor.
During the status hearing, the defense counsel informed the Court he was not aware of the new charges being filed against his clients.
“I think it’s quite difficult to come today and see these additional charges,” said Luatutu.
He asked the Court for more time to go through the new charges.
“Your honor we were looking at a special fixture for two weeks,” requested Luatutu.
“I am asking you how long you need to obtain instructions and enter pleas, one week?” asked Judge Fepulea’i.
“Last week the prosecution filed additional charges and these additional charges include forgery and theft by a person in a special relationship, both of which attracts a maximum penalty of 10 years for each count.
“Therefore it is outside of the jurisdiction of the District Court.
“The application by the prosecution for all the charges against you will be transferred for mention before the Supreme Court at 10am on 16 October, 2017,” said Fepulea’i.
During the initial hearing of this matter, Fepulea’i ordered all five defendants to hand over their passports and travel documents to the Court as part of their bail conditions.