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Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi in 2018

On August 13, 2019, Samoan police confirmed they had foiled an assassination plot to kill Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi.[1][2] It's the third attempt to assassinate Malielegaoi, after another failed try in 1999 where one of his Cabinet members was killed and another uncovered in December 2010.[3][4]

Though motives have not yet been established, Samoan police initially arrested two men, and later charged a third.[2] The three of them appeared in an Apia court on September 9, 2019, where two of them entered not-guilty plea, while the other pleaded guilty.[5] Police are now working to extradite a man named Talalelei Pauga, from Brisbane, Australia in connection to the plot.[6]

Background and the first two assassination attemptsEdit

Malielagoi has been the Prime Minister of Samoa since 1998 when he was appointed as the country's new leader. He was subsequently reelected in parliamentary elections since 2001 and remains in power to date. On July 16, 1999, 34-year-old Eletise Leafa Vitale attempted to kill Malielagoi, but instead the Minister of Public Work Luagalau Levaula Kamu was killed. Vitale was charged with capital murder and conspiracy to assassinate the Prime Minister and was sentenced to death. His death sentence was ultimately commuted to life imprisonment without parole.[7]

In December 2010, police received threats that a plan to kill the Prime Minister was underway. The threats were taken seriously due to the 1999 incident.[4]

2019 plotEdit

On August 13, 2019 police confirmed to the media they had arrested Taualai Leiloa, Malele Atofu Paulo and Lema'i Faioso Sione on charges of conspiracy to commit murder.[2] According to police sources, the plot was developed from April 2019 through early August of the same year.[2] Along with the three detained, police believe that a Samoan man, Talalelei Pauga, based in Australia is believed to be behind the plot as well and are trying to extradite him.[6]

Police in Samoa say there were money exchanges between Pauga and the three men arrested in Samoa, with one of them being a married man from the Lauli'i village.[8]

Since motivations have yet to be established, security surrounding Malielagoi tightened up, with Australia taking further steps to protect him while on a visit to the country on September 8, 2019.[9]

On September 9, 2019, Leiloa, Paulo and Sione appeared in court for the first time where the first pleaded guilty to the charges whilst Paulo and Sione entered a not-guilty plea. Leiloa is due to be sentenced on September 30, 2019. Meanwhile, Paulo and Sione will have a hearing date to be set soon where it's expected they will be accused of conspiracy to commit murder. If found guilty they could face up to life imprisonment.[2][10][a]


On September 18, 2019, the prosecution announced they would have Eletise Leafa Vitale, the man convicted of killing the Minister Luagalau Levaula Kamu and who also tried to kill the Prime Minister, as a witness against the two men who entered the not-guilty plea.[11]

On September 21, 2019, both defendants appeared in court again for bail hearings but the hearings were adjourned until October 16, 2019 when new legal matters will be heard. It will be then that a bail hearing date will be set. [12]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Ensor, Jamie. "Plot uncovered to assassinate Samoan Prime Minister - report". Newshub. Retrieved 9 September 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Three men charged in connection with plot to assassinate Samoa PM" (RNZ). 16 August 2019. Retrieved 9 September 2019.
  3. ^ "Minister murdered in Western Samoa". WSWS. Retrieved 9 September 2019.
  4. ^ a b Field, Michael (December 6, 2010). "Samoan PM assassination plot investigated". Retrieved 9 September 2019.
  5. ^ "Man pleads guilty to conspiring to assassinate Samoa PM". RNZ. Retrieved 9 September 2019.
  6. ^ a b "Samoan police try to extradite man from Australia in connection with PM's assassination plot". Xinhua. Retrieved 9 September 2019.
  7. ^ Zinn, Christopher (15 April 2000). "Samoan cabinet ministers get death sentence for killing". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 September 2019.
  8. ^ Robertson, James (18 August 2019). "Assassination plot probe turns to financial links". Samoa Observer. Retrieved 9 September 2019.
  9. ^ "TIGHT PM SECURITY WHILE IN AUSTRALIA". News Line Samoa. Retrieved 9 September 2019.
  10. ^ "SAMOA CRIMES ACT 2013" (PDF). Crimes Act 2013.
  11. ^ "Convicted murderer to be witness in Samoan assassination case". RNZ. Retrieved 18 September 2019.
  12. ^ "Bail hearing for Samoa PM assassination plot accused adjourned". RNZ. Retrieved 21 September 2019.
  1. ^ According to Article 40 of the Samoan Crimes Act 2013, any person found guilty of attempting or actually harming the Head of State shall be imprisoned for life