Online chats, money transfer receipts, posts and commentaries on social media appear to show an online scam organised by a fake “Samoan chief” and his mother have defrauded a number of Tongan women of thousands of dollars.
Samoan lawyer Malietau Malietoa and his mother, Aiono Papalii Malietoa also known as Aiono Sia Papalii Laupepa Malietoa, have been accused of advertising ie koga on Facebook for thousands of dollars, but accusers say the products were never sent to customers after they paid the money.
The pricey Samoan fine mat, known in Tongan as kie Ha’amoa, are of cultural significance for Tongan funerals, weddings and birthdays.
‘Ana Tekiata Langi Havea of New Zealand claimed the Malietoas deceived her into believing she would receive the mat after she paid them NZ$8,500.
She does not appear to be the only person to be affected by the alleged scam, with complaints from Tongan communities in Australia, New Zealand and the United States.
Havea told Kaniva News she sent the money through Western Union to Malietau’s mother Aiono, but they did not send her the mat.
At one stage, she was sent a photo of an ie koga being processed at the post office in Apia with Malietau claiming it was Havea’s ie being processed by the post office staff to be sent to New Zealand. But after checking with post office staff, Havea was told Malietau returned and took back the ie.
She said Malietau had paid back NZ$4,500 after she shared her story on Facebook and threatened him with legal action. Havea claimed Malietau had not paid the balance.
According to a copy of a money transfer receipt seen by Kaniva News, Havea sent NZ$1514.00 to a receiver called Aiono Papalii Malietoa in Samoa on February 19.
Havea also sent a copy of the receipt to Malietau via Facebook messenger to prove she had sent the money.
Havea also messaged Malietau and confirmed to him that the money was the settlement payment of the NZ$8,500.
She told Kaniva News that about a week later she became stressed after Malietau began changing his story.
The changes included saying he was unable to send the ie as scheduled because of an attack by relatives on his family’s house and a subsequent complaint to the police, that his visa was invalid, that there were no flights, requests for extra times and saying he planned to fly to Auckland.
On Facebook Havea said: “At first I thought Malietau Malietoa is a Samoan Chief but he is not. So sad to find out, He is a thief because he stole $4k from a poor Tongan Widow. Look at him! Eeeeeewwwww…. Lucifer Smile.” The post has been shared 38 times.
On February 11, 2018, after seeing an advertisement on Facebook, Havea messaged Malietau asking if she could buy an ie koga to cover a coffin of her dying husband after he was diagnosed with liver cancer.
In response, Malietau said on a Facebook message seen by Kaniva News that the mat cost NZ$9,000, but he was offering it to her for NZ$8,500.
“Sorry, these kie [are] more expensive but we have tried to get a discount,” Malietau said in a message seen by Kaniva News.
Havea offered to pay for his airfares to hand deliver the ie koga to New Zealand, but after Malietau said he might not be available to travel Havea offered to go to Samoa instead.
When asked when she would receive the ie Malietau responded: “Two days. Be there Tuesday. Sorry Wednesday.”
He then messaged his Bank South Pacific details, but Havea changed her mind and sent the money through Western Union.
“Can u send to Aiono Sialeipata Malietoa. That’s the name please,” Malietau said in another Facebook message.
He told Havea she could only send ST$6,000 a day because of the restrictions on cash transfers.
In another message, Malietau confirmed that the money from Western Union was picked up and reassured Havea that she should receive the ie koga on Thursday as latest.
On February 18, Havea told Malietau she has sent NZ$3,529.90 to Aiono Sialeipata Malietoa through Western Union.
“Thank you so much and I hope it will get here in time for my husband’s [wake] on Thursday night,” she wrote.
The payment of NZ$8,500 was settled on February 19 with a payment of NZ$1514.00 made to Aiono through Western Union, Havea said.
However, in a message on February 21 Malietau began changing his story.
“Sorry Ana, after talking to you this morning, I came [home] to [an] incident requiring police, I am currently here at Police… filing a complaint,” said Malietau.
In response Havea wrote:
“Maaaaannn… I hope you know how much I’m [stressed] out about the ie koga. If not [received] by Friday then just do a refund as I sacrificed the expenses for my husband in order to get me the ie koga for [his] coffin please.”
Malietau responded by providing a link to a story about a dispute among Malietoa descendants on Talamua.com and saying:
“… today while I was at DHL, I [got] home to find my elderly mother and her elderly sister in tears, as a group of people from a relative’s village [came] over and threw stones at the roof of the house, scaring them. That’s why I was at police station because of this incident. I [apologize] for this.”
He said he had relocated his family back to the village where it’s safe.
Threat of legal actions
On March 1, Havea threatened to seek legal advice. Malietau appeared to be apologetic and said he was embarrassed at being unable to deliver the ie koga. He said that he was in court that day and the following day.
In response Havea said: “…I already volunteered my daughter to come [at] my own expense but I don’t know why you didn’t accept it as I was so desperate in need to use for my husband. He was the one paying and he knew before [he passed] that I am spending so much money on the ie koga just to put on his coffin. I wish to say you broke my promise to my husband and caused me more pain than the passing of my beloved husband because I didn’t keep my last words to him and I’m in so much pain.”
When threatened with the release of the story to the news media, Malietau promised to pay back Havea’s money.
“I have received real money of $500 this morning from Sia Aiona. Thank you for that but where’s the 1500 from yesterday? Still not [showing] in my bank account. Expecting the balance of 8k by tomorrow,” Havea wrote.
In response, Malietau assured her that he was chasing it up.
Havea replied: “To be honest, I am sick of talking with and all the excuses you gave me so tomorrow is the last day for the ie koga or my money.”
“I am sick of all your excuses! 1,000 times! My auntie, Losena wrote to me about the same problem. With your Mum [that] she [dealt] with.”
“She did not deal with my Mum, sorry,” Malietau replied.
Kaniva News originally planned to run this story on Saturday, May 19, but Havea asked us to hold it as Malietau promised to refund the balance of NZ$4000 by Friday, May 25.
As this story was being written, the money had still not arrived.
Talking to other victims of the alleged fraud has revealed stories of regret, disappointment and embarrassment. People said they were convinced the offer was genuine because of the chiefly status of the name Malietoa.
Some women chose not to pursue any refund demand from Malietau because they did not want their families to find out that they had spent large amounts of money on products they never saw.
A Tongan woman in the United States claimed she paid Malietau about US$10,000 but he did not send her a mat.
The woman asked to keep her name out of the story because she was scared her husband would find out she spent the money on something which never arrived.
Malietau did not return a message from Kaniva News seeking his side of the story.
However, Tongan freelance journalist Taina Kami Enoka managed to get hold of him.
Enoka told Kaniva News Malietau told her that he would speak with her only if they were off the record as his lawyer has been handling the matter. Malietau told Enoka only his lawyer could release any information after she told him she was going to run a story on his alleged scam.
In September 2007 a long awaited planned royal wedding between Malietau and the niece of king Tupou VI, Hon Titilupe Fanetupouvava’u Tuita, was called off because the engagement was dissolved.