/ COURT / Former MP back in custody to await sentencing

Former MP back in custody to await sentencing

Toluono - facing camera with former Cabinet Minister, Le Tagaloa Pita outside court today.

By Unumoe Esera

Former Member of Parliament Toluono Feti Toluono who was found guilty of charges of forgery and uttering forged documents has been remanded back in custody until sentencing on Thursday this week.

His lawyer Toleafoa Solomona Toailoa presented final submissions on his behalf today.

He stated that Toluono’s Probation Report  indicated that  he is someone of good educational background, as his academic achievements  included a Bachelor of Engineering from Auckland University in 1984.  He was also a former Chief Executive Officer of the Electric Power Corporation for 13 years. He was a former Member of Parliament when he was elected in 2006 and had run in the last General Elections but had not been successful.

“He has been a worthwhile member of society for over 30 years. He holds a paramount title from his village and has served both his family and village,” said Toailoa. He also mentioned that Toluono was a first offender and had no previous convictions.

The Prosecution’s memorandum for a starting point for sentencing for Toluono of  four years for the Stowers land transaction and four and a half years for the Burke land transaction, was considered by Defense Counsel to be too high a sentence as it was nearing the maximum penalty for forgery which is five years.

“We submit that the Prosecution starting point  is far too excessive if compared  to cases of manslaughter where a life has been taken,” said Toailoa.

He also stated the fact that in the Stowers case, the land was fully restored to its owner despite the fact it was mortgaged to one of the banks and the instigation of the land  had been done by his client and had also done the same with the Burke land. But the person leasing the land had refused to return it.

“Although it had not been returned, but he had made the effort,” said Toailoa.

Defense Counsel submitted that the court take into consideration that his client have the same sentence as co-defendant Vaselisa Stowers who is currently serving three and a half years imprisonment as sentenced by the Chief Justice Patu Tiava’asu’e Falefatu Sapolu last year.

Toailoa also submitted that there was no link between the stroke suffered by Theresa Taufau Stowers due to the defendant’s conduct in the illegal transactions as stated in the victim impact report. He considered this speculative without medical reports to prove the claim.

He also sought the Court’s leniency to take into account that from the Probation report the defendant was suffering from some medical conditions.

He also argued that Toluono still maintained his innocence and the crime that was committed would have been so easy to detect  as someone could look up the land to find out whose name it was under and a person of Toluono’s standing and education would not knowingly commit such a crime when it could be easily discovered.

Justice Slicer pointed out however that the criminal activity had been undetected for some time.

“The system is quite simple, you don’t have to be a genius to take advantage of the service,” said Toailoa.

Prosecution did not have any further statements to add from their written submissions.

Leinafo Taimalelagi and Precious Chang represented the Prosecution.

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