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11 year jail term for offender convicted of people trafficking and slavery charges. Monday, 27 July 2020

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) and New Zealand Police welcome the jail sentence and substantial reparations handed down in a major human trafficking and slavery case.

Joseph Matamata, of Hastings, was sentenced to 11 years in jail at the High Court in Napier today. He’s also been ordered to pay $183,000 in reparations to his victims.

Matamata was convicted on 10 human trafficking and 13 slavery charges in March this year.

Today’s sentencing is the result of more than three years of work by INZ and New Zealand Police. A joint investigation began back in 2017 when the first allegations of Matamata’s offending were brought to INZ’s attention. His offending was related to 13 Samoan nationals that he arranged to bring to New Zealand between 1994 and 2017.

INZ General Manager of Verification and Compliance, Stephen Vaughan says the prison sentence recognises Matamata’s actions and behaviour were abhorrent and went against all basic human decency.

“His breaches of trust, physical abuse, and blatant disregard for the well-being of people he was purporting to help were unconscionable and must be condemned”, says Mr Vaughan

Detective Inspector Mike Foster, Eastern District Police says the case was one of the most complex joint investigations undertaken by Police and INZ, and the result is testament to the shared determination to see justice done for Matamata’s victims.

“Police, along with INZ, are committed to investigating human trafficking and slavery, supporting victims and making sure those responsible face justice, and are prevented from doing further harm”, says Detective Inspector Foster.

Both INZ and NZ Police want to thank Samoan authorities for their help and co-operation. Both agencies also wish to commend Matamata’s victims for the part they played in bringing him to justice and holding him to account.

“Their bravery and support were vital to securing these convictions. We know it was difficult for them over what was a lengthy investigation and trial. Their decision to take a stand and share details about what they went through was the key to securing these convictions, says Mr Vaughan.

Detective Inspector Foster says they’re keen to target this sort of offending and encourages anyone aware of such activities to get in touch with authorities.

 “Police and INZ will continue to investigate and respond to any allegations of this abhorrent crime”, he says.

Anyone with concerns for their safety or the safety of others should call Police on 111.

Alternatively, they can make a report anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, or via an online Crimestoppers form.

Video — Immigration New Zealand statement on Joseph Matamata(1:17)

View transcript

This is one of the biggest cases that Immigration New Zealand has dealt with in relation to trafficking in persons and slavery, and it’s been an excellent result. It’s a direct result of the work we’ve done with New Zealand Police, the Samoan Authorities, and also our own investigations team.

Well, these allegations and the convictions are the most serious set of circumstances we have seen of an employer treating their employees. We first became aware of the incidents involving Mr Matamata when we spoke to some of his workers in 2017, and by tracking back over the time of people that had worked for him, we became aware of a pattern of behaviour of Mr Matamata, and the way he treated his workers.

Well, I think the message is very, very clear in the sentence that’s been handed down today, indicates the seriousness that, not only Immigration New Zealand and wider agencies treat this matter, but also the way it’s treated by the criminal justice system. And, we’d encourage anybody who feels that they are being mistreated at the hands of their employer to come forward and to inform us of what’s been occurring, and we’ll investigate it because we treat the matters very, very seriously.

Download the video statement by Stephen Vaughan

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