President of the Tonga Body Building Association, Masanao Onedera, has demanded that the president of the Tonga Body Building Federation, Talaiasi Nau, pay $15,400 to settle a long running legal dispute.
Onedera’s lawyers said the Supreme Court had ordered an audit of the Omega Gym, which had been a business venture, jointly owned by Onedera and Nau.
“The said audit found that the Tonga Body Building Federation owed $15,400.64 that was payable to Mr. Onedera for gym equipment bought by him and freight related expenses to ship the gym equipment to Tonga,” Onedera’s lawyers said.
They also demanded that President of Tonga Body Building Federation Talaiasi Nau repay $1590 he took out of the Omega Gym account.
The dispute centres on the ownership of body building equipment after the collapse of Onedera and Nau’s business partnership.
As Kaniva News reported at the time, Nau told a hearing before the Supreme Court that he and Onodera had a 50/50 partnership in the Omega Gym, which was located in Queen Salote Memorial Hall at Nuku’alofa.
Nau said Onodera had terminated the partnership by taking over the management of the gym.
The Tonga Bodybuilding Federation claimed it owned the equipment used in the gym and wanted it to be returned to its possession and control.
Onodera disputed both claims, saying the equipment was his own property and that the partnership with Nau was on an 80/20 basis, with himself having the majority share.
He told the court the partnership was terminated by consent and that the gym was solely his own business.
In August 2016, Nau and a team from TBBF competed in the South Pacific Natural Physique and Fitness Championship in Auckland.
Onodera advised Nau to ask the vice-president of the South Pacific and Oceania for the International Federation of Body Building, Paul Graham, to donate specialised body building equipment to the TBBF.
Graham agreed to donate the equipment to the TBBF, which was made as an affiliate of the IFBB.
Onodera paid for the cost of having the equipment shipped to Tonga from Sydney. He said that because of his investment Grahams and his wife agreed that the equipment would be in his name.
Graham sent a letter saying the equipment was being consigned to the TBBF instead of himself, as was shown on the shipping documents .
He told the court this was done on the advice of Nau who told him it would save custom charges.
“Now I realise it was all to create a way to claim the equipment was owned by TBBF without having spent a penny on getting it to Tonga,” he told the Supreme Court.
However, Nau said: “[Onodera] signed the letter confirming that the equipment belonged to TBBF freely and willingly in order for duty exemption to be obtained and for the equipment to be released to TBBF,.”
Judge Niu, who presided over the case, said he accepted Nau’s evidence. He said the equipment that Onodera sent from Sydney became vested in TBBF by way of gift from Mr. and Mrs. Graham to TBBF, because Onodera was at that moment the agent of TBBF.
A similar set of claims was made about a second set of equipment which Onodera claimed was his, even though it had also been passed through customs as the property of the TBBF. This claim was also rejected by the judge.
However, the judge said he believed Onodera’s claim that the business was divided 80/20 rather than 50/50.
Judge Niu ruled that all the equipment shipped to Tonga was the property of the Tonga Body Building Federation and should be returned to it.
Nau and Onedera agreed to having an accountant look into the business.
In 2020 an account was prepared. The accountants said Nau and Onedera did not agree on the position of the accounts. A face to face meeting was suggested in order to resolve the dispute, but this did not happen.
Onedera’s lawyers have demanded that Nau pay the money they say is owed by July 13. Onedera told Kaniva News he would continue pursuing legal action against Nau.
For more information
Supreme Court rules equipment belongs to Bodybuilding Federation; orders its return