Ex-Army man discharged without conviction

By Deidre Tautua-Fanene ,

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FREE MAN: Mualia Salamo was discharged without conviction.

FREE MAN: Mualia Salamo was discharged without conviction.

A former United States Army personnel, Mualia Salamo, is a free man.

He has been discharged without conviction after pleading guilty to one charge of bringing unlawful weapons into the country.

The decision was handed down by Supreme Court Justice Vaepule Vaemoa Vaai last week.

Prosecution was lawyer, Lucy Sio, of the Attorney general’s Office. Representing the defendant was Te’o Richard Fa’ai’uaso.

Salamo was accused of allegedly bringing illegal drugs and weapons that were found in a container shipped into the country in the year 2015.

Initially, Mualia had faced five charges brought against him under the Drugs and Narcotics Act and charges for the possession of unlawful and illegal weapons. 

However, prosecution made an application to withdraw other four charges which leaves one charge of bringing unlawful weapons into the country, where Mualia then pleaded guilty to.

During the sentencing, Justice Vaepule said bringing unlawful weapon into the country is a very serious offense.

“The penalty of this charge is a fine not exceeding $300,000 or imprisonment for six years or both,” he said.

According to the Police summary of facts the container was from Colorado. It had arrived at the wharf on June 25, 2015. And on the following day, the Customs searched the container and found the clip of an M16 weapon inside.

According to Justice Vaepule, the defendant pleaded guilty after the other four charges were withdrawn.

“Guilty plea to the charge of the clip which was found in the container are clearly parts of an unlawful weapon whether that unlawful weapon was an M16, it is still defined as an unlawful weapon under the law,” said Justice Vaepule.

“These clippers are currently under the custody of Police and it is normal for the Court to order the police to destroy it whether they are damaged or not.”

The first part of the sentence delivered by Justice Vaepule is to destroy these clippers.

“The first part of this sentence is an order for the Commissioner of Police to destroy these clipped,” said Justice Vaepule. 

“Whether the strings are damaged or not, it is irrelevant."

“It is relevant however to the original sentence; it’s not relevant to the order to destroy it.”

The matter was first heard in June 2015 and after three years; a decision has finally been reached.

“It’s not a short period of time. It is also made known that you have suffered physically, mentally and also emotionally, from your service in the army."

“You are still taking medical treatments where it requires you to travel three times a year to get your medication. You rejected that you have any knowledge that these clipped are packed inside the container."

“But then you signed the declaration form and that declaration form shows that you knew exactly what was inside that container.”

According to Justice Vaepule, defense counsel requested for the matter to be discharged without conviction given the timeframe the matter has been heard.

“The Court has to carefully weigh the seriousness of the charge like this and the factual consequences,” said Justice Vaepule. “The Court has decided that Mualia has suffered enough and he is discharged without conviction."

“The last part of this sentence is the fact that he did not plead guilty in the first time in this charge, the consequence of that in my opinion, he is ordered to pay prosecution costs of $400."

“That order and the order of discharge without conviction are subject to payment of prosecution cost.”

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