Investigators recommends criminal charges
A 45-page investigation report on the Kite Runner boat, which revealed it entered Samoa without a valid permit, has been submitted to the Attorney General's office.
The Department of Homeland Security prepared the investigation report and has recommendations to criminally charge relevant parties, including the owner of Kite Runner staff of the Port Administration and a customs agent.
The investigation was launched following media reports out of Samoa that the Samoa Police detained the Kite Runner over a lack of proper permits.
According to the investigation report on the EPIRB Registration Form, the Kite Runner vessel, a pleasure craft, is owned by Tish Peau, and additional information listed Papalii Laulii Alofa as the Primary 24-hour Emergency contact person.
The report also revealed through Deputy Chief of Customs Juliano Falaniko, who was acting on behalf of the Chief of Customs at the time of the Kite Runner activities, that the Certificate of Clearance for Kite Runner was on hold, and the boat left without any clearance.
However, Homeland Security alleges Customs Agent Sheehan Samuela Seigafo issued the Certificate of Clearance after the fact. Seigafo has since denied the claims by Homeland Security, citing their information as unfounded and false.
Captain Loleni Faiai, who has been working for Port Administration for over 20 years, manning the MV Manu'atele Vessel, captained the Kite Runner to Samoa in April.
He told investigators that he was on leave for his father's funeral when Papali'i Lauli'i contacted him to Captain the boat for a trip to Samoa, as the actual captain was unavailable and did not have his documents.
He further noted that Tish Peau was responsible for preparing the Kite Runner paperwork, and Mike Fuiava is the “runner" and that he didn't have time to go over the yellow folder that was given to him by Peau.
Furthermore, Faiaui said Peau and Fuiava assured him all the proper documents were in the envelope. However, it wasn't until they got to Apia he noticed the documents were not completed and there was no Customs Clearance.
Upon returning to American Samoa, Faiai confirmed that he contacted Harbor Pilot named Beverly, and they stayed on the boat until the Authorities in charge of clearance arrived.
Faiai further told the investigators that the boat went to Savai'i for Papalii's family funeral. In conclusion, Faiai told investigators he was at fault as the Captain and should have taken time to review the documents before the boat left to make sure everything was completed. The report outlined the process for permits.
The report also outlined the process when retaining a Certificate of Clearance.
The issuing of a Certificate of Clearance would require having a Departure Form issued by DPA. The Departure Form is then routed by the agent/representative of the vessel to the Customs Division of the Department of Treasury, where the Certificate of Clearance form is issued.
Regarding the Kite Runner’s Departure Form issued by DPA, it was signed by Julia Pa'aga on April 25, 2023, on behalf of the Director of DPA.
Investigation revealed through email threads indicates that on April 25, 2023 at around 9:54 am, Fata Brian Kaio of the Consulate General of Samoa emailed Tish Peau requesting “clearance” of the boat belonging to Laulii before it entered Apia Harbor.
Homeland Security recommended charging Peau, Pa'aga and Seigafo. The case has been referred to the Attorney General's Office for review and final disposition.