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Guilty verdicts in slavery and trafficking trial

File photo.

A man accused of human trafficking and slavery charges has been found guilty of all but one charge.

Joseph Matamata, 65, was on trial before a jury in the High Court at Napier, facing 11 charges of trafficking people and 13 charges of dealing in slaves.

The alleged offending occurred between late 1994 and April last year and involved 13 victims.

He was found not guilty on one trafficking charge, but guilty of the remaining 23 charges. 

The Crown alleged that Matamata brought Samoan citizens into New Zealand with the expectation from them that they would earn big money by Samoan standards. 

But once here they were exploited by Matamata for his financial gain. He would take workers to orchards or work sites and receive "bags of cash" as payment for their work but would never pass it on to them, the Crown said.

Justice Cull reminded them that a slave was defined as a person retained as property and slavery was the ability of one person to control another person as they would control a chattel, or "thing".

Immigration New Zealand says Tuesday’s guilty verdicts in a significant slavery and human trafficking trial at the High Court in Napier demonstrate that this kind of abhorrent behaviour by employers will not be tolerated.

INZ General Manager Verification and Compliance, Stephen Vaughan, says this is a great result and thanks everyone who was involved in achieving the verdict.

“The verdict is the result of a long and thorough joint investigation by INZ and the New Zealand Police, with help from other Government agencies and the Samoan authorities.

“I would also like to thank the victims for their bravery during this protracted investigation and trial. This has been a very difficult time for the victims involved who have all been informed of the result.”

-Additional reporting by Stuff.co.nz

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