19 Sep 2008

American Samoa High Court to hear case for appointment of special prosecutor

9:28 am on 19 September 2008

American Samoa's High Court is to hear a motion by the government to have a special prosecutor appointed to prosecute four employees of the Attorney-General's Office who are charged with stealing and embezzling government funds.

The four employees are accused of misappropriating $400,000 in fees for immigration documents and services.

The motion to appoint a special prosecutor was heard by District Court Judge John Ward last week

Judge Ward ruled that even if the law provides that employees of the AG's Offce must be prosecuted by an independent counsel, such a step must be approved by the Secretary of the Interior.

The Judiciary is the only branch of government that is still under the purview of the Interior Secretary.

Last week, Deputy Attorney General Frederick O'Brien filed a motion with the High Court to declare that employees of the AG's office can only be prosecuted by an independent counsel.

While the motion is pending in the High Court, the District Court will tomorrow hold a probable cause hearing to determine if there's enough evidence to support he charges against the four defendants.