Samoa's Deputy PM and Associate Minister charged
Deputy Prime Minister Fonotoe Pierre Lauofo and Associate Minister Muagututagata Peter Ah Him are to appear before the Court next Tuesday.
Whereas Fonotoe faces a charge of inciting or encouraging the obstruction of a Police officer from executing his/her duty, Muagututagata faces two charges.
One is for making an illegal U-turn and the other for wilfully obstructing a Police officer from executing his/her duty.
The charges against the senior politicians were confirmed yesterday by the Acting Police Commissioner, Misa Tala’imanu Keti. Misa said Muagututagata, 57, of Leifiifi and Fonotoe, 50, of Vaoala, have been charged in relation to a traffic incident on Beach Road last year. The charges carry a possible jail term of no more than one year.
The Cabinet Ministers are scheduled to appear in the District Court on Tuesday 14 January 2014.
The alleged incident occurred on the night of 4 October 2013 in front of the Development Bank of Samoa. At the time, it is alleged that Muagututagata made an illegal U-turn in front of the bank. He was pulled over by the Police where he was tested for alcohol with a breathalyser.
The Police allege the Associate Minister did not take the test properly. It was during his fourth attempt to blow into the breathalyser when Fonotoe allegedly stopped by.
Last year, Fonotoe issued a press statement denying the allegations against him. He claimed that he was heading home after a family dinner in town when he saw Muagututagata’s vehicle parked on the side of beach road in front of the former Agriculture Store Corporation.
A Police pick-up with lights on was right behind it.
"I stopped to see whether it was an accident," Fonotoe said. "At the time, testing of the Associate Minister with the breathalyzer machine was in progress.
"I counted three times the test was administered and the Associate Minister was then let go."
Fonotoe said he left the scene of the incident immediately after the Associate Minister’s vehicle. Muagututagata also denied the allegations. He later lodged a formal complaint against one of the Police officers who breath-tested him, in relation to a different incident.