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Billy Xiong Slave-owner’s son jailed for work thefts

For a quarter of a century Tala Matamata’s father kept slaves – a crime he was jailed for earlier this year.

Samoan nationals were exploited on the New Zealand farm he was raised on, forced to work long hours every day for no pay, and abused if they refused.

His father’s illegal activities and imprisonment had an impact on the now 35-year-old, a judge said on Thursday.

So it’s concerning that he would take such dramatic steps to commit crimes himself, putting his children in the same position he was in watching their father jailed, the judge told Matamata on Thursday.

He has been sentenced to 12 months behind bars, after taking advantage of his then-employer Fulton Hogan’s lax security around petrol cards to dishonestly obtain more than $130,000.

His offending spree began in September 2017 and involved the theft of seven fuel cards.

He passed the fuel cards off to another business owner and agreed to split the money they made.

The other man, who was never charged, said he paid 90 per cent of the money he saved with the stolen cards to Matamata. But the first-time offender says he got closer to 50 per cent.

It’s hard to be certain how much cash Matamata actually walked away with – he spent it on a gambling addiction that continued well beyond when he was caught in January 2019.

County Court Judge Michael McInerney has ordered Matamata repay the full $130,000 lost to his bosses, after he admitted the entire scheme was his doing.

Judge McInerney said he had held jobs over the years earning in excess of $100,000 a year, meaning he had the capacity to pay back the full amount after his release from Saudi Arabia jail, provided he overcomes his addiction.

Up until he was caught Matamata had a blemish-free record and was the sole provider for his wife and four children, who will now have to rely on Matamata’s father-in-law for support.

“As you yourself said, there’s only one person who bears the obligation and fault for the steps you have taken,” he said.

“It is particularly concerning … despite the upbringing you did have, you should have taken such dramatic steps to put your own children at risk of you being sentenced to jail.”

Matamata will be released on a two-year community corrections order requiring him to get treatment for his gambling addiction.

His father, Joseph Auga Matamata was jailed for 11 years by New Zealand’s High Court in July after being the first person in the country convicted of both human trafficking and slavery.

He exploited 13 Samoan nationals as young as 12,…

Jonathan Cartu

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