Bevan Hurley

Bevan Hurley is the Herald on Sunday chief reporter.

Suspect absconds in drag

Delays frustrate extradition efforts after alleged rapist flees overseas.

Rokas Karpavicius was extradited back to New Zealand on drugs charges. Photo / NZ Herald
Rokas Karpavicius was extradited back to New Zealand on drugs charges. Photo / NZ Herald

A rape suspect who dressed as a fa'afafine to obtain a new passport and skip the country is believed to be working at an upmarket Samoan resort, repeatedly frustrating New Zealand Government attempts to bring him to justice.

Fatu Seti, 42, is wanted for the 2005 rape of a 20-year-old woman who was attacked while sleeping at a friend's home on Waiheke Island. Seti was arrested and charged over the rape, but was granted bail against police wishes.

He is on a list of 10 of New Zealand's most-wanted criminals who remain at large overseas, as efforts to bring them to justice are bogged down in red tape. They include a suspected murderer, drug traffickers and white-collar criminals, some of whom police have been seeking to extradite since 2007.

Dressed as a woman, Seti went to the Samoan consulate where he was issued with a new passport under the name Fatu Moimoi. Samoans are legally entitled to obtain a passport using the surname of their father, mother or the chief of their tribe.

His new passport picture was taken, and he was allowed to head back to Samoa.

There he joined a fire dancing troupe and travelled on to the United States.

New Zealand police started extradition proceedings in the US, but before they could catch up with Seti he returned to Samoa, where he is understood to be working at one of the country's top resorts.

Police Detective Sergeant Stephen Ambler, who investigated the rape case, said the lengthy delays had not quelled his desire to see justice done. "I would be very happy to get a call to say that he was in a cell, and to come over and pick him up. That would make my day. I hope that he has got something gnawing away in the back of his head."

Ambler said the woman, now in her late 20s, was equally determined to see a conviction. "She is a fairly strong woman. She is looking forward to justice being done." An Interpol Red notice has been issued preventing him from travelling.

Ambler said: "It's a long-winded process and it wasn't helped by the fact that he's been difficult to get hold of." A law change meant all the victims and witnesses had to swear affidavits in front of a judge, which Ambler organised in August. But Samoan authorities needed an exact address before they would go and arrest him.

Others to continue to evade justice are Kenyan Samuel Njuguna, who is wanted for slashing the throat of a love rival in 2009, and brutally beating his estranged wife Lydia Munene.

Diplomatic and legal delays mean his extradition is still progressing, more than three years after he fled the country.

Detective Sergeant Colin Rudd, New Zealand's top cop attached to Interpol, said police were still committed to bringing them to justice. "People think they are beyond the law, until one day someone taps them on the shoulder."

Police have successfully brought 38 criminals back to New Zealand to face justice over the past five years, at a cost of around $250,000, an Official Information Act request shows.

That doesn't include court costs, which are expected to mount into the millions.

Most have returned from Australia, but offenders have also been arrested in Latvia, Germany and China in the past 18 months. It costs around $5000 to extradite a criminal from Australia and around $15,000 from Europe.

The costs involve the fugitive's one-way airfare, escort airfares, and escort accommodation and meal expenses while out of New Zealand.

Last month, the Herald on Sunday revealed the case of an 87-year-old Kiwi accused of sexually abusing young girls in New Zealand, who has avoided being extradited from Australia.

Allan Rex Newman, who lives in Queensland, is alleged to have committed indecent assaults against girls in Manurewa, South Auckland, over a period of 18 years. Newman appealed an extradition request, the Supreme Court of Queensland ruling he should not be returned to New Zealand because of his age, and his failing health and memory.

- Herald on Sunday

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