A two-day hearing against two men accused over a package intercepted by Customs Officers at the Fagali’i Airport, which contained ice, started last week.
Scott Barlow and Fatu Vagana are facing one joint charge of possession of methamphetamine to which they have both pleaded not guilty.
In addition, Mr. Barlow faces a charge of possession of a utensil namely a pipe, commonly used to smoke ice/meth. He has also pleaded not guilty to this charge.
Presiding over the matter was Supreme Court Judge, Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala – Warren.
The prosecutor was Fatumanavaupolu Ofisa Tagaloa and Anne of the Attorney General’s office while Scott Barlow is represented by Aumua Ming Leung Wai.
Leiataualesa Jerry Brunt appeared on behalf of Fatu Vagana.
According to Fatumanavaupolu, the prosecution have 16 witnesses including a taxi driver Junior Pilitati Tavita, who drove Barlow and Vagana to the airport on the day of the incident and Harry Samau an employee of Talofa Airways who was working on the same day.
The first witness called was Junior Pilitati Tavita of Alamagoto.
He was a former employee of Scott Barlow and his wife back from 2007-2012 however, he no longer works for Barlow but is a taxi driver who Barlow occasionally contacts to pick up his wife and children.
During Mr. Tavita’s testimony, he recalled on the 28th June, 2017 Mr. Barlow contacted him and asked if he could come to his home at Ululoloa.
“I went and picked up his wife and daughter, dropped his wife at Lotemau and his daughter off at school,” he said.
“I was also instructed by Scott to come back around 10am.
“When I came back to his house, he then told me to go to the wharf and pick up his friend.
“So I went to the wharf arrived there just before 11 o’clock and when the ferry arrived I picked up his friend and we headed back to Apia to Scott’s house at Ululoloa.
“On our way back, this person asked me if I had a pen. I told him where the pen was and I handed him my cash power receipt and that’s when I saw him writing down the name “Penina Setu”.
“We came straight back to Ululoloa to Scott’s place but when we arrived, Scott was not there. So I left his friend there and came to get corn beef from his baby sitter and then I went back. Scott was there at the time and then we ate.”
Mr. Tavita told the court that before they left Scott’s home he (Scott) instructed him to get a tissue that was inside his van.
“I went and got the tissue and I put it on the side of my door,” he said.
“It was Scott, Fatu, myself and Scott’s employee who we dropped off at Lotemau then we went to Fagalii,
“When we arrived at Fagalii Airport Scott went inside and came back and we waited for the plane. Not long after, the plane arrived and then Scott went inside the airport a second time.
“About half an hour after Scott went inside the airport, that’s when police arrived, searched my car and took us all to the police station.”
Fatumanavaupolu then asked Mr. Tavita how he came to know what was inside the tissue.
“When I went to get the tissue, Scott told me to hold it properly in case the pipe dropped out,” said Mr. Tavita.
Meanwhile, an employee of Talofa Airways, Harry Samau who deals with the check-ins, as well as clearing the cargo, was working on the 28th June, 2017.
“There was a man he was white but he spoke in Samoan. He came and told me that he had an envelope that is being brought in by our flight that he was there to pick it up,” said Mr. Samau.
“I told him then that when the flight arrived I would bring his envelope to him but it was around noon.
“There was an envelope that came in on the flight 512 and I remembered this because this was the only envelope that came in on this flight 512 and cargo. I was the one who had the envelope because I was the one who cleared the flight.
“I came and gave the envelope to the man who came and asked me before, however the man told me that the envelope was not his.
“I then told him that this was the only envelope that came on this flight but he said no so I brought him inside our office where there were more envelopes that had arrived in the morning to see if we had his envelope that he was looking for.
“We went through all the envelopes that were in the office and I was looking through our airways bill and while I was looking through the airways bill I turned around and that’s when I saw him holding a bag.
“I then told the man that he could not touch the bag and I took it away from him.
“The man then told me that this was his bag.
“I then said to him that he told me that it was an envelope he was seeking and that now it’s cargo but he insisted that the bag belonged to him.”
Mr. Samau said he went through the airways bill and it matched the information on the bag and the information that was on the airway bill.
“I asked him to confirm the names and I saw the airway bill that it matched the name that the man was saying.
“The sender was Sera Apineru and the receiver was Penina Setu. I then asked the man if he had an ID of Penina Setu but he said he didn’t have an ID of Penina Setu.
“I then told him that if the cargo belonged to him it had to go through Customs and Quarantine. He didn’t say anything else he just followed me there and that’s where our service ended because it was now with Customs and Quarantine.”
Scott Robert Barlow, who testified on the second day denied having any knowledge about ice/meth being sent from American Samoa nor about owning the pipe in question.
“Before the day of the incident Fatu called me the night before and said that he needed some quick money because he was building a house in Savaii and he asked if I could help sell some ice for him,” said Mr. Barlow.
“He told me that he was coming from Savaii on the morning ferry and returning in the evening and he asked if I could pick him up from the wharf. I told him I couldn’t but I would send someone to get him.
“Junior Pilitati went and got Fatu from the wharf and then brought him to my home at Ululoloa but at that time, I thought that he had already had some ice on him.”
Mr. Barlow told the court he did not know they were going to go to the airport until Fatu asked him if they could go pick up an envelope with money in it.
“We got to the airport and I told Fatu that he had to tip someone at the airport to make sure the envelope arrived safely and didn’t get mixed up,” said Mr.Barlow.
“Fatu said he did not have any money so I went and gave the employee of Talofa Airways, Harry Samau a tip of $50 to make sure that the envelope arrived safely.
“When the plane arrived, Mr. Samau came and showed me some envelopes but the names on those envelopes did not match the name I was asking for.
“While heading to the car Mr. Samau called me again and told me to come with him inside his office to try and find the envelope that I was looking for.
“We got to the office and Harry went through everything and said to me there is no envelope by the name of Penina Setu.
“I was sitting down at the time and my back was faced to the door. Not long after, another guy that was in the office asked what we were looking for. Both me and Harry answered ‘Setu Penina’. That person then told me that the name is on a pack bag.
“Harry then picked up the bag, opened it and searched it. He walked to where the Customs and Quarantine were to search the bag and told me that there was no envelope inside the bag.”
Aumua reminded his client yesterday that during Harry Samau’s testimony, he had told the court that Mr. Barlow was the one who took the bag and held it (afisi pei se pepe).
“I never touched that bag. It was Harry who got the bag put it on the drawer, opened it up and went through the stuff inside,” said Mr. Barlow.
“You can search for my fingerprints on that bag and you will find nothing because I never touched that bag.”
Mr. Barlow also told the court when he was questioned by Aumua, how he came to know the name of the sender.
In response, Mr. Barlow said he was told by Fatu on their way to the airport of the sender’s name.
Mr. Barlow said when Harry took the bag to the Quarantine and Customs the person from Quarantine pretty much cleared the bag however the Customs officer was the one who went through the bag again.
“So the Customs guy, Charles Bell brought the chocolates out, the lollies and also an ie lavalava,” said Mr. Barlow.
“When the guy brought the ie lavalava out there was a knot on the ie and at that time I felt nervous. I was worried and all these mixed feeling came rushing to me.
“Charles asked what it was and I told them that I was there for an envelope with money in it, not a bag.
“He opened the knot and that was when I saw two bags of crystal ice.
“I then begged him to help me and I told him that I would pay them $5,000 tala each but to let me go because this is not what I was there for .I was there to pick up an envelope with money in it, I thought of my wife and my children at that time.
“I told him I would do anything for them and the guy actually thought about it but he called the police anyway.
“I had no knowledge whatsoever that we were going to the airport to get a bag because I was told it was money, I was told it was an envelope, not a bag.
“If I knew it was ice, I wouldn’t go to the airport.”
The matter has been adjourned to the 3rd October for defense counsel and prosecution to put forward their final submissions.