The Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Lopao’o Natanielu Mua says he is no longer a shareholder of any company found on a government website, which states that he has interests.
Ministers and Associate Ministers have come under increasing scrutiny in the last month over their failure to divest themselves of shareholdings in family companies upon their appointment.
But Lopao’o, in an interview with the Samoa Observer yesterday, said he does not own shares in any company.
“I don’t own anymore companies and I have disposed all of my shares to my children. I gave all of that up, when I was elected by my constituency as their respective representative,” he said.
However, the Ministry of Commerce Industry and Labor (M.C.I.L.) website shows there are four companies which allegedly list the Minister down as a shareholder.
The Ministry’s website record show that Lopao’o has 22,500 shares with Dan Mu’a Investments Limited, plus 15,000 parcels with Mu’a I'uafi Enterprises Limited and 160,000 shares at Mua National Carrier Construction Limited.
The Minister, who left for China on Monday night, blamed the M.C.I.L. for not updating their records.
“I will not be blamed for M.C.I.L.’s inability to update their records. I don’t own any companies I can assure you of that, and if you print anything in the paper I will come back from China and take you to court,” he added.
“This article will create unnecessary pressure on my family because someone did not do their job.”
Lopao’o said when an article was published by this newspaper a week ago regarding Cabinet Ministers involved in businesses, he acted.
“I rang the M.C.I.L. and told them ‘you better update your records because I don’t own any companies anymore’ and yet it appears they have not done that,” he said.
The Samoa Observer contacted the M.C.I.L. Chief Executive Officer, Pulotu Lyndon Chiu Ling, for a comment but he was yet to respond at the time of going to press.
Lopao’o also told this newspaper that the companies that are allegedly connected to him – as per the data on the Ministry’s website – are no longer active.
“Transwork Limited is the only company operation and it is own by my family and they know, I have already disposed my shares to them and I resigned as general manager and managing director the night I won the election,” he said.
“On the night of 4 March, 2016 when I was elected by my respective constituency; I resigned from the said company and the Parliament Clerk can attest to the fact that every time my children’s companies are involved in a project, I recuse myself.”
But the M.C.I.L. records show that Transwork Limited does not have Lopao’o as a shareholder.
He said when Transwork Limited puts in a bid before Cabinet for its consideration, he excuses himself from the meeting and leaves the room.