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NZ lawyer employment causes argument in Samoa

07 September 2016

The hiring of two New Zealand lawyers by Samoa's Attorney-General to prosecute the Director of Public Prosecutions and Police Commissioner, has been opposed by the country's National Prosecution Office.

In mid-August 2016, Samoan Police Commissioner Fuiavailili Egon Keil was served with four criminal charges - unlawful detention, perjury, providing false statements, and disorderly conduct. These related to an unlawful arrest by police of a man at Samoa's Fugalei market in 2015.

At the same time, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mauga Precious Chang, was arrested by police in relation to traffic offences which occurred in June 2016. He has been charged with negligent driving causing injury and dangerous driving.

The Samoan Attorney-General, Lemalu Herman Retzlaff - who was based in New Zealand at the time of his appointment in March this year - announced that he had hired Auckland barrister  Satui Simativa Perese to prosecute Mr Chang. According to Radio New Zealand, Mr Retzlaff also said that a Crown prosecutor from Auckland law firm Meredith Connell would prosecute Commissioner Keil.

This announcement caused a statement from Samoa's National Prosecution Office (NPO), which said that Samoa's Constitution did not allow the delegation of prosecution powers.

The Office said the Attorney-General mistakenly believed he had the power of prosecution, but this had been removed and given to the NPO. It said the Attorney-General's role was to focus on civil suits against the government.

In response, the Attorney-General has released a statement which is reported by the Samoa Observer newspaper.

This says it is not appropriate for the NPO to prosecute this matter.

"The investigation that led to the charges against the Commissioner was said to have been undertaken by the NPO without proper notice or authorisation of the Police. This was confirmed today [7 September] by the Acting Commissioner of Police," Mr Retzlaff says.

"Therefore, given the surrounding matters related to these charges, a party other than the NPO should take carriage of that particular file. Further, as there is an independent prosecutor undertaking the matter against the suspended Director of NPO, fairness dictates that the same apply to the other matter."

Last updated on the 16th September 2019