By ALISON HORWOOD
Luagalau Levaula Kamu was a high-achieving New Zealand-educated scholar and gifted politician admired by his fellow Samoans.
But as Apia's Minister of Public Works, he held a portfolio that was so coveted he would apparently die for it.
Toi Aukuso Cain, one of two cabinet ministers charged with masterminding his assassination, said everyone wanted to be Minister of Public Works because you could skim money from companies wanting a Government contract.
"That's why Luagalau was shot. Because Luagalau was also the same, he wanted tips, tips, tips," he told the court.
"That is where the money is."
Toi said that when his co-accused, Leafa Vitale, was Public Works Minister, he could make thousands of dollars in bribes.
A contract worth 10 million tala ($6.84 million) was worth a $300,000 "tip."
Leafa apparently has about three million tala stashed overseas.
Toi, Communications Minister at the time of the assassination, and Leafa, who held the Women's Affairs portfolio, are on trial in the Supreme Court in Apia charged with murder.
Toi is also charged with conspiring to kill the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice and another minister.
Leafa's son, 34-year-old Alatise Vitale, is already serving a life-sentence after admitting he was the gunman who shot Luagalau in the back with a military-style assault rifle at a political party on the evening of July 16 last year.
A former Sons of Samoa gang-member wanted in Hawaii in connection with an automobile death, he said his father supplied him with a pistol and an Armalite AR180 rifle smuggled into Samoa in a paint can from the United States.
He said his father showed him a hit-list of people he wanted killed because they had crossed his path or taken away his political power.
Plagued by allegations of contract irregularities, Leafa had slipped from popularity and lost the influential Public Works portfolio in 1996.
Alatise said his father instructed him, as the eldest son, to kill Luagalau and promised him a new house for his wife and three children, and a car.
But in the days after Luagalau died in hospital from blood loss, Leafa gave Alatise only $66, to fix up his battered Suzuki car, as payment.
During the defence case, Leafa took the stand and denied he played any part in the murder.
Calling his son "stupid" and a liar, he said he was surprised to hear Alatise say he told him to do it.
"I wanted to know from him the reasons for the killing," he said.
Fifty-four-year-old Leafa, who entered Parliament in 1988, said Luagalau was a close friend against whom he did not bear any grudges.
Despite four people giving evidence that they saw a rifle similar to the AR180 in his office, Leafa denied owning it or passing it to his son.
"It is part of a conspiracy against me," he told the court.
One of the witnesses, Frances Brebner, described how Leafa kept the rifle beside his chair at the Treasury Department and played with it during a board meeting at the end of 1997.
"He just went behind his desk and picked up the gun and looked through the scope," said Brebner, who worked with Leafa and thought of him as a "man to be feared."
Toi, the second accused, told the court he had sought medical help in Australia and New Zealand in recent years for his depression and suicidal tendencies.
His illness had apparently affected his speech and short-term memory.
The 68-year-old told police when he was arrested last August that Leafa originally asked him to organise the shooting.
They haggled over the price, but he was eventually given the rifle and 2000 tala and promised a total of 500,000 tala.
Toi organised a hit-man - taking him on several drive-bys to Luagalau's home - but pulled out after he attended a prayer meeting.
He said he told Leafa: "Sorry for your plan; we are finished."
Leafa had angrily called him a "chicken-arsed shit" and subsequently asked Alatise to do the killing.
In court, however, Toi said he never intended to carry out the hit.
He planned to take the cash and pretend to miss Luagalau and shoot a tree outside his house.
The 10-week trial is due to be summed up by the Australian judge, Justice Andrew Wilson, on Wednesday.
A panel of five assessors will then retire to decide the fate of the two men.
By ALISON HORWOOD