Tongan pyramid scheme operator suspects to appear in Auckland court next month

    Four suspects who allegedly defrauded members of the Tongan community of hundreds of thousands of dollars are expected to appear in the Auckland Disputes Tribunal on September 10.

    (L-R) Tia Fine, Petisi Fonua, Sophie Malia Tonga Tea Talakai and ‘Ofa Tu’ineau Tu’ipulotu

    The accused are ‘Ofa Tu’ineau Tu’ipulotu, Tia Fine, Sophie Malia Tonga Tea Talakai and Petisi Fonua, according to court documents seen by Kaniva Tonga News.

    They operate the Virtuous Limited company previously registered as Dosis Limited based in Manurewa.

    Fine is listed on Companies Office website as the group’s director and shareholder.

    The court case stemmed from a complaint made by Pisila Faanunu. Faanunu claimed she has invested NZ$22,800 in the company after it was promoted if people put significant amounts of money into their scheme they will receive a big payday.

    Faanunu told Kaniva News this morning she has only received false promises from the company and the investment never materialised.

    Faanunu said she wanted the tribunal to order the accused to pay back her money.

    Talakai was contacted for comment.

    Kaniva News understands, more people have filed complaints with the disputes tribunal in relation to the accused and other scheme groups.

    In a report by One News this week, Pacific Correspondent Barbara Deaver said there are at least 18 pyramid schemes operating.

    “Thousands of Tongans in Auckland have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars to these schemes including Tongi Tupe Nu’usila which is headed by Ofa Siasau who runs it from her Otara-based Alfa Shipping company, of which she is a director,” One News said.

    It is understood Tongi Tupe headquarter in the US, operated by self-styled CEO Tilila Siola’a Schumchai has collapsed owing hundreds of thousands of dollars to its investors.

    New Zealand Commerce Commission is investigating the illegal schemes. It has published the following information on its website:

    What is a pyramid scheme?

    A pyramid scheme can take many forms, but has the following essential elements:

    • it offers a financial return based on the payments made by new recruits
    • the return is dependent primarily on the continued recruitment of new members, not sales of a product or service
    • the primary motivation of many participants is the opportunity to make money by recruiting others.

    Pyramid selling schemes may involve ‘gimmick’ products (for example certificates) or overpriced products or services that have little or no resale value and are not likely to be purchased again (for example personal development programmes or general financial information).

    Example: Three businessmen promoted a ‘get rich quick’ scheme. Prospective members were told that the potential return was “huge” – at least US$10,000 in 90 days, with a “minimum potential income” of US$160,000. This as a pyramid scheme as the only way members could make money was by recruiting new participants. If no new members were recruited, no money was made. Three people that promoted the scheme were convicted, fined and ordered to pay reparation to their victims.

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