A jury in New Zealand found Joseph Auga Matama guilty of 13 counts of human trafficking and 10 counts of slavery on Tuesday (TG). The offenses took place over a 25-year period (BBC). He faces up to 20 years in prison or a fine of $300,000 for human trafficking and modern slavery convictions (RNZ). This is the first time someone in New Zealand has been charged with both slavery and human trafficking (BBC).
Matamata, 65, holds status as a Samoan chief or matai, a position which reportedly commands “absolute obedience,” (TG). After promising a better life, witnesses reported through translators that Matamata paid for their passports, flights, and holiday visas to come to New Zealand (TG). However, when they arrived, the victims worked long hours at orchards and other work sites for no pay (BBC). Matamata took the cash the victims had earned and would often beat them (RNZ). His sentencing trial is set for May 6.