Former Samoa MP ordered to pay $120,000 in land scam
A former Member of Parliament who is in jail for forgery in relation to a land transaction, Toluono Feti Toluono, has been ordered to pay $120,000 to a woman who sued him over another fraudulent land sale.
Supreme Court Justice, His Honour Lesatele Rapi Va’ai yesterday awarded landowner, Rosita Burke, $90,000 for special damages and $30,000 for general damages.
“Exemplary damages are dismissed,” Justice Lesatele said.
Neither Toluono nor Mrs. Burke was in Court for the decision. But their lawyers, Tole’afoa Solomona Toailoa, for Toluono, and Fepulea’i Ameperosa Roma, for Mrs. Burke,were present.
The decision was brief. Justice Lesatele said a written ruling would be distributed to both parties once it is available.
Asked for a comment yesterday, Fepulea’i said; “The Court has made its decision and I have no other comment…Mrs. Burke is in New Zealand at the moment.”
Mrs. Burke, of Lano, Savai’i and Hamilton, New Zealand,had sought compensation of $80,000 for the ¼ acre of land that was gifted to her by her aunt, Estelle Churchward, which Toluono had illegally sold. She had also asked for $50,000 for the mental stress caused by the defendant’s dishonesty and an additional $50,000 for exemplary damages.
The dubious land deal surfaced in 2010. At the time, Toluono was a Member of Parliament.
It emerged that he was registered in official documents as the owner of the piece of land at Tuanaimato that belonged to Maka Rosita Burke.
According to official documents, the land transfer was witnessed by lawyer Tuimaleali’ifano Eti Va’aletoa. His signature appears in the deed of ownership as the “Solicitor for the Purchaser.”
Mrs Burke at the time said her signature on the land transfer document appears to have been forged.
She maintained that she did not sell her land. Mrs Burke was born in Sa’asa’ai, Savaii, on 2 September 1946. Her maiden name is Maka Rosita Stowers.
She went to New Zealand, met her husband there and married; since then they’ve been in Hamilton with their family.
On 16 July 1981, Mrs Burke inherited a piece of land from her “aunt” Estelle Churchward, wife of a retired accountant; the couple lived in Apia.
Located at Tuana’omato the land is described as “Parcel 1196 being parts of Parcels 973 and 974 Fur V Upolu and part of the land registered in VOLUME 9 FOLIO 151 of the Land Register of Western Samoa as the same is more particularly delineated on Plan 4317 deposited in the Office of the Director of Lands at Apia.”
In one of the relevant official documents Mrs Churchward is recorded as saying she “gifted” the piece of land to Rosita Stowers “in consideration of the natural love and affection” she had for her. The deed of conveyance was signed by the Commissioner of Inland Revenue on 7 August 1981.