A Pentecost man has been ordered to refund more than VT46.6 million to his victims after he collected huge amounts from individuals claiming he will refund the money with billions in profits.
Michael Hocten, who is now deceased, was ordered by Justice Saksak to refund the money through his estates by his personal representatives.
Justice Saksak said that this is a reserved judgment as to quantum of damages.
He said that liability was entered against the Mr Hocten by default on July 5, 2016.
Saksak said that this is an undefended claim where Mr Hocten was personally served on July 6, 2016 but he was bedridden with illness during process.
The Judge said that Hocten has a wife and siblings and he passed away in September this year.
The case appeared to have a long history where late Hocten used agents to collect money from clients with promises to pay back the shares with billions of vatu.
“No receipts were ever issued, promises were verbal and whatever happened to the money collected remains a mystery.
“But clients put their trust in the defendant and continued to give him money over many years without receipts,” Mr Justice Saksak said.
No one ever complained or raised any suspicions as to whether the scheme was real or a scam and the clients believed the scheme was real.
Unfortunately over those many years, none of the contributors ever received any returns on their shares as promised and they then filed this proceeding in February 2016.
The sworn statements and the evidence as to amounts of contributions and the shares promised were unchallenged by the defendant.
“However it appears his promised billions of vatu in return for contributions are in my view exaggerated and are unbelievable as (they are) unreal,” he said.
“The amounts are specified in the Table of Contributions at the extreme right hand column in the written submissions.
“Those amounts are unreal and cannot be included in the claims for damages.
“The only amounts the court accepts are the amounts of contributions made by each of the claimants.”
Justice Saksak said that legal counsel Willie Kapalu raised the question of the Limitation Act and submitted it does not apply in which he said it is an interesting aspect.
The Judge said that the contributions were accepted or taken by the defendant in consideration of a return in billions but in his view there is an implied trust created.
He said that he agreed with Mr Kapalu’s submission claiming for an interest of 5 percent on the amounts contributed.
“Accordingly I award damages after assessment to the Claimants in the total sum of VT 46,634,485 in favour of the claimants against the defendant,” Justice Saksak ruled.
“As the defendant is deceased, these damages be paid out of the deceased’s estate by his personal representative.”