29 Oct 2003

Former American Samoa cabinet minister pleads not guilty to ethics and theft charges

11:18 am on 29 October 2003

A former cabinet minister in American Samoa, Tafua Fa'au Seumanutafa has pleaded not guilty in the High Court to charges of stealing and violation of ethical conduct.

Seumanutafa, the former government chief procurement officer, faces 18 counts of stealing and 15 counts of violation of ethical conduct.

The stealing charges stem from allegations he withheld government property, namely several bookshelves for the Department of Education, while advance payments for the goods were issued.

More serious charges of criminal fraud were dismissed last week because of the vagueness and broadness of the territory's fraud statute.

Seumanutafa's pretrial conference is set for Feb 2 2004 and he remains out on bail.