Australian link in Samoa's whiskey smuggling case
A mysterious Palagi was involved in hundreds of crates of whiskey entering the country and leaving the wharf undetected by Customs Services.According to evidence heard before the District Court last Friday a Palagi (European) man and a Samoan approached Toalepai Jonah Lee at a bar in Australia on 12 October last year.They offered Toalepai the sale of bottles of whiskey which were already in Samoa. Toalepai said nothing.The offer was repeated by telephone by the Palagi who on 2 November last year went to Toalepai’s house in Australia and made the offer a third time.That time Toalepai accepted the offer; it coincided with a trip he was making to Samoa for Christmas. The deal was he paid the Palagi part of the price forthe whiskey.All that was evidence by defendant Levaopolo Talatonu Va’ai who said he didn’t know the Palagi’s name.Levaopolo said Toalepai is his friend – and the agent in Australia for Island Freight the freight forwarding company he owns. Upon “Jonah’s” arrival in Samoa they met at JT’s bar (now called Hynie’s Bar) at Fugalei, he said.Toalepai told him when he returned to Australia he would ask the Palagi to return his money because no duty had been paid on the whiskey.The Prosecution does not believe that story.They accuse Levaopolo and his employee Christine Ainuu of smuggling in the whiskey inside container numbered BHCU3078686 and “created” shippingdocuments to disguise the illegal cargo as personal effects which belong to four persons in Samoa who they also made up and therefore do not exist.Levaopolo and Ainuu were jointly charged with four counts of false declaration pursuant to section 221 and 209 of Customs Act 1977 and four counts ofdefrauding the Customs pursuant to section 218 and 209 of the same.Ainuu was further charged with five counts of forgery/ making false document and eight counts of uttering forged document.