New Zealand slavery, human trafficking charges: Not guilty plea expected

10:42 am on 28 January 2019

The first person to face both human trafficking and slavery charges in New Zealand has signalled his intent to plead not guilty to the charges.

Viliamu Samu in court

Viliamu Samu in court Photo: RNZ/ Anusha Bradley

Samoan national Viliamu Samu, 64, also known as Joseph Matamata, appeared in the High Court in Napier this morning.

He is charged with using 10 people as slaves between 1994 and 2017. He also faces eight charges of arranging the entry of people from Samoa into New Zealand by deceiving between 2003 and 2017.

He's accused of committing the offences in Samoa and across the Hawke's Bay region.

Appearing before Justice Peter Churchman, Mr Samu's lawyer Roger Phillip said he intended to plead not guilty to all the charges.

A four week trial was set for February 2020.

Mr Samu was remanded on bail.

Each slavery charge carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison while the human trafficking charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison or a $500,000 fine.

He was arrested on 17 December after a two-year investigation by Police and Immigration New Zealand, which described the case as a "new low".

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs