17 Apr 2007

Niue government takes passports, considers jail, for mystery group of debtors

3:27 pm on 17 April 2007

Niue's immigration minister, Fisa Pihigia, says the government may direct police to take members of a mysterious group staying at the island's only hotel into custody if huge debts are not cleared.

The group, which has been characterised as part of a cult, owes nine months of accommodation costs at the Matavai Resort and ten of thousands more dollars around the island.

Mr Pihigia says they had promised to clear the debts after Easter but that has not happened.

He says the group members have been forced to surrender their passports and a judge has given the green light for them to be taken into custody, but the government intends moving cautiously.

"We will take them into custody but at the moment I don't want to rush into things. We are very lenient with these people as we want them to pay what they owe, and at the same time we don't want anything that causes [us] to have to put them into jail. We are allowing them time to pay up but when the time comes if they don't I believe we have to do something about it"

Fisa Pihigia