A business couple convicted for masterminding a money-making scam in Samoa have had their application to leave the country denied.
The decision over the application by Nicolas Giannos and Rosita Stanfield, was delivered by Chief Justice, His Honour Patu Tiava’asue Falefatu Sapolu yesterday.
Outside the Court, a visibly upset Mr. Giannos criticised the decision, saying it was unfair and unjust.
The application for the pair to leave the country was submitted by their lawyer, Leota Raymond Schuster. Filed two weeks ago, Leota asked the Court to allow his clients to return to the United Kingdom to see their families.
Yesterday, Leota pleaded with the Court that his clients have been away from their families for a long time now, since they were stopped from leaving Faleolo Airport last year. He assured that they will be back in time for the Court of Appeal hearing in October.
But the lawyer for the National Prosecution Office, Leone Su’a, opposed the application. She argued that there was no way to ensure that Giannos and Stanfield would return. She said once they are outside of Samoa, they are never coming back since they have nothing in Samoa to return to.
“The likelihood of their return is at the lower end of the scale,” said Ms. Su’a. Although she was unable to confirm if Samoa has an extradition agreement with the U.K., even if there was one, she argued that this would be a very expensive and time consuming exercise.
In his ruling, His Honour agreed with Ms. Su’a.
“This is a case of fraud which is relevant to the question of accountability and reliability,” he said.
“Their conviction for fraud does have a bearing on them returning. The risk of absconding is also high.”
Chief Justice Patu added that Samoa does not have an extradition treaty with Great Britain and if they don’t return, there is no way of getting them back.
The Court also rejected an application by Leota to change the bail conditions for his clients, where they are required to sign in with the Police twice a week.
Outside Court, Giannos slammed the decision, saying it was unfair.
Giannos and Stanfield were charged and convicted of running a pyramid scheme in Samoa.
Giannos, a businessman from Greece along with Stanfield, a Samoan who had lived overseas for a long time, came to Samoa with the intention of recruiting local investors to invest in the UFUN Club and promised a higher return afterwards.
Giannos and Stanfield were jointly charged with Fa’atoafe Mati Silao with eight counts of obtaining by deception pursuant to s.172 of the Crimes Act 2013. Giannos was also charged with two individual counts of false accounting pursuant to s.198 of the Act.
At the conclusion of the evidence for the prosecution, defence counsel made a submission of no case to answer on behalf of the three accused in respect of all the charges.
The Chief Justice ruled on 8 October 2015 that there was no case to answer in relation to the accused Fa'atoafe Mati Silao in respect of the eight joint counts of obtaining by deception with which he was charged. Those counts against Fa’atoafe were therefore dismissed and he was discharged.
The Court also ruled that there was no case to answer in reference to the accused Giannos and Stanfield being jointly charged with two counts of obtaining by deception. That left six joint counts of obtaining by deception against Giannos and Stanfield and two individual counts of false accounting against Giannos alone.
In passing judgment, Chief Justice Patu said: “I find the accused Mr Giannos and Ms Stanfield both guilty of the remaining six joint charges of obtaining by deception.