Two jailed for plot to kill former Samoan prime minister Tuilaepa

An archival photo of Lema'i Faioso Sione (left) and Malele Paulo
An archival photo of Lema'i Faioso Sione (left) and Malele Paulo. Image: Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia/RNZ Pacific

Two men charged with conspiring to murder former Samoan prime minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi have been jailed.

Malele Paulo, also known as King Faipopo, has been jailed for four years, and co-defendant Lemai Faioso Sione will spend four-and-a-half years behind bars.

Both men were found guilty by a panel of assessors in March this year.

Supreme Court Justice Vui Clarence Nelson ordered media not to publish evidence of the case as another co-defendant, Talalelei Pauga, also known as Ninja, is yet to be extradited to Samoa from Australia to stand trial.

A fourth co-defendant, Taualai Leiloa, pleaded guilty to the joint charge of conspiracy to murder in December 2020 and is currently serving a five-year prison term.

The court heard that the four men had planned to murder then Samoa PM Tuilaepa at Siusega Catholic Cathedral in August 2019.

The justice noted Paulo was devoid of character and the only mitigating factor considered in relation to his penalty was caring for his father which had led to a two-month reduction in his jail sentence.

Paulo was previously convicted by the District Court and jailed for seven weeks in relation to a criminal libel matter in 2019 when he was sued for defaming Tuilaepa.

Paulo had also asked the court for a different lawyer just on the eve of sentencing but was denied.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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