Immigration Chief denies claim

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu ,

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HEAD OF IMMIGRATION: Agafili Shem Leo.

HEAD OF IMMIGRATION: Agafili Shem Leo. (Photo: Samoa Observer)

The Head of Samoa Immigration, Agafili Shem Leo, has rejected claims that his Office had been notified about the alleged sale of Samoan passports online earlier this year.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Prime Minister and Cabinet in response to questions from the Sunday Samoan rubbished claims his office was informed as early as May.

“These allegations were not reported to me as Head of the Ministry back in May,” he told the Sunday Samoan in an email.

“It only came to my attention when my Press and Communications Division forwarded an email inquiring about this matter when I was on duty travel on September 22nd 2017. 

“Swift action was immediately taken against these allegations upon my return to Samoa on the 25th September in accordance with the law. This had led to the investigation that is currently on going.”

But a reliable source said the Immigration office might have been alerted to the situation at the beginning of 2017.

The source said the information, however, was relayed senior Immigration officials until the matter was queried by the Samoa Observer.

“The complaint came to the office in May, 2017 yet the officials were only informed when Samoa Observer sent over an email containing copies of the passport that was (allegedly) sold online,” the source said. 

“Up until now, I don’t know why this was not reported in the first place and yet this is a serious issue.”

Last week, Attorney General, Lemalu Herman Retzlaff, issued a ‘prohibition order’ against two suspects in connection with the alleged sale of Samoan passports online. 

The order against Immigration employee, David Nomereta Uaine and a member of the public, Fitu Goshe, prohibits them from leaving the country while the investigation is in progress. 

A copy of the ‘prohibition order’ obtained by the Samoa Observer was issued on Tuesday and signed by the Attorney General. 

The order was addressed to the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and Samoa Immigration, Agafili Shem Leo. 

The alleged sale of passports was put to the attention of the Immigration Office by the Samoa Observer, which led to the government launching their investigation into the allegations that someone is “selling Samoan passports” online.

This was confirmed in a press statement issued by the Press Secretary.

 “As required under the Passport Act and the Public Service Act, the Immigration division of the Ministry of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has begun an investigation in to allegations of a potential breach of the Passport Act,” the statement reads.  

 “This is in relation to reports received by the Ministry last week that passports have been illegally procured."  

 “The Ministry takes any allegation seriously and wishes to assure the public that security of our passports remains intact.  Relevant action in accordance with the law will be taken upon completion of the investigation."  

 “The Immigration Office will continue to monitor, review and improve processes to ensure the safety and security of Samoa.”

The statement did not say how long the investigation will take and what exactly they are after.  

© Samoa Observer 2016

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