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Samoa Court dismisses Peseta’s civil claim against La’auli

A civil claim brought by Samoa's Associate Minister of Cabinet and Prime Minister, Peseta Vaifou Tevaga, against former Cabinet Minister, La’aulilemalietoa Polataivao Schmidt and others, in relation to a dispute about a nonu company, has been dismissed. 

The decision was delivered by Supreme Court Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren Tuesday.

Justice Tafaoimalo ordered the management of LPA (Nonu Company) to be put back in the hands of Apulu Lance Polu, Martin Jonathan Schwalger and Danny Schwenke, Peseta’s son.  

According to the Court ruling, Peseta’s claim was filed against Apulu, Schwalger, La’aulilemalietoa and Maota Samoa Convention Complex Limited, Local Partners and Associates Limited and Aldan Civil Engineering Construction Company Limited. 

Peseta is represented by defence Counsel, Leulua’iali’i Olinda Woodroffe, while the defendants were represented by Semi Leung Wai. 

According to the Court ruling, Peseta’s cause of action was prompted by what he claimed to be a breach of director’s duties.

He accused them of preventing him from participating in the decisions or activities of the LPA or from entering LPA premises. 

He accused La’auli of taking and having in his possession property of the plaintiff, including nonu juice and vehicles.

Peseta also accused his former business associates of breaching their contract by putting secured land at risk and for the conversion of vehicles that belong to LPA to another company known as Maota o Samoa. 

In Court, Justice Tafaoimalo pointed out the land in question was used as collateral to secure the loan which belongs to Aldan Company Limited where Peseta is a Director. 

The loan was from the Samoa National Provident Fund (SNPF). 

“The arguments advanced therefore that the land is his (Peseta) land, is not technically correct,” Justice Tafaoimalo. 

“Peseta claims that the defendants breached a contract.  

“There is no contract, written or oral between Aldan and the defendants which is before me and from which I can ascertain its terms with any certainty.

“There was no evidence that Peseta, as director of Aldan, unwillingly offered his land as security. 

“The only evidence before me from Peseta himself, Polu and Laauli is that Peseta gave it willingly provided his overdraft was paid. 

“Even when the possibility came up for the security to be replaced, he did not want the land to be released. The defendants on the other hand, took active steps to find a replacement security. 

“The agreement for sale and purchase of the nonu farm and the valuation report shows real progress in finding a replacement security.” 

Regarding the leasehold documents, Justice Tafaoimalo noted the valuation report and evidence heard at the hearing the purpose of the leasehold being for a nonu farm to grow the nonu and to replace Peseta’s land. 

“Before the acquisition of Nonu Farm, the nonu was collected from around Samoa.

“In any event, Polu and Schwalger have operated LPA in a way that loan payments have been maintained, despite the challenges of a legal battle and the Court appointment of an interim manager. 

“In December 2016, there were no arrears to the SNPF loan. The arrears have accumulated this year with the management of LPA being out of the hands of its directors.  

 “LPA sales were increasing as evident in its financial statements from 2013 to 2015. 

“The noticeable drop was the expected sales for 2016, after these court proceedings commenced.

“Any attempts by the defendants at reconciliation were thwarted by Peseta. 

“I accept the evidence of Laauli and Polu that Peseta would not consider reconciliation. 

“Peseta cannot now put the blame on the defendants. 

“His part to play in continuing to cause and sustain the division between himself and the defendants is not insignificant. 

“Peseta had derived some benefit from LPA in having his overdraft paid off and in the cash payments which I accept he received from LPA of at least WST$20,000  (approx US$7,800) according to Polu.” 

“In moving forward, the parties need to either negotiate a replacement asset or agree to work together if this business venture is beneficial to Samoa, ordered Justice Tafaoimalo....

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