I received a call from Australia. “My name is John. I’m coming to New Zealand and would like to meet you. I’ve been reading your blog and love your work! I’ve funded the Te Aliki family in their fight for justice for the last few years and I wish to get your advice!”
“Sure!” I said
So we met.
I met with this millionaire businessman from Sydney in an Auckland hotel with his Samoan family representative. He p*ssed me off by saying nice things about me non-stop for an hour using every superlative he could think of until I told him that I was not the Messiah, that he was a fool to look up to me like that and to shut-up – yes I literally said this, directly, just like that.
So he did, fortunately.
I then went through their case and got to understand the seriousness of the matters at stake. Land theft in Samoa, as in many indigenous cultures abounds. The government changes the rules and innocents lose their family jewels sort of thing. Nudge nudge wink wink and the elite feather their own nests – as the ruling class of Animal Farm put it, “We’re all equal. It’s just that we’re a little more equal than you!” And of course their legal case had gone around and around in circles and was about to go down the gurgler.
There are several take-homes from what can only be classified as an utterly disastrous engagement for me over quite some months in the Te Aliki case. The first is that millionaires sometimes don’t pay their bills. Yes, I know, I know, I should have been more careful and less trusting but I was put crook by more than one factor.
I was paid up front for the first tranche; and the second. The third one, the big one, never arrived. Bugger!
“He’s good for it!” from the family meant nothing at the end of the day. “You trusted a Samoan – after you lived in Samoa all that time?” I hear you mock. Yes I did.
The second is that sometimes the people that get you into the poo cannot get you out of it. This businessman and the family that he supported trusted the same lawyers that lost the first case to win the appeal. Perhaps that might not work? A few questions from me and I found that they had sidelined some people that I knew to be top legal brains in preference for those, that, well . . . had already lost for their clients!
Thirdly, sometimes the legal system is not the way to go and the cards are stacked against you when taking on corrupt people in positions of power, especially when they have a vested interest in an adverse outcome. I advised them that they would lose their appeal; and that their legal advisors had not done the basics. They simply did not understand the politics that they were getting into and the matter was a political one, not a legal one.
I received a phone call later on from a very distraught woman who had watched millions of dollars of other people’s money wasted as Samoan politics legitimised a land theft from her husband’s family in 1959. “You were right!” she said. “We lost, we should have listened to you.” Sadly there was nothing I could or did say and I doubt I’ll ever see my money. #lostforwords