I went from mob member to businessman

By Gary Hamilton-Irvine


Rotorua-born Joe Kingi turned his life around from a Mongrel Mob member to a successful businessman. The Daily Post reporter Gary Hamilton-Irvine sat down with Joe to hear his incredible story.

'Sorry bro I have mahi [work] tomorrow."

With that Joe Kingi closed the door behind his Mongrel Mob mates and watched them drive off to a job - a drug deal which was to go terribly wrong.

Leading up to that point the Rotorua born 17-year-old had considered leaving the mob in Porirua but wasn't sure if it was the right decision.

"I was thinking which way to go - business life or criminal life?" he says.

On the one hand he'd grown up wanting to be like his cousins in the mob but on the other he was starting to earn some good money running his dad's weed spraying business.

Mixing the two lifestyles didn't seem so bad, he thought, at least until the news came in.

One man was dead and his mates were in prison after the drug deal had gone horribly wrong.

"I really thought about what just happened," Joe says. "When they were arrested I should have been in that car."

He says it was a hard decision to make but after joining the mob at such a young age, 15, he realised he didn't want the same future as his cousins.

"So I left in search of another life. And I knew I couldn't stay in the country if I wanted to leave the gang.

"I grabbed a duffel bag, a couple of pairs of pants, some shirts, two pairs of undies, a wallet full of cash and I wore my jersey on the plane."

Joe arrived at Brisbane Airport on September 25, 1983 - a day he remembers well because it was the Australian rugby league grand final between Parramatta and Manly-Warringah.

He moved to Sydney two days later and, without basic reading and writing skills, found work in security.

Joe, who weighed more than 109kg, began boxing at Tony Mundine's gym in Sydney, the father of now famous boxer Anthony Mundine.

During his time at the gym he was trained by former world kickboxing champion Alex Tui who trained Joe as a fierce fighter.

During the next few years he also spent time working as a driver for the Church of Scientology, which would help him later in life.

When he was 28, during a sparring session across town, he was put in the ring with a Bandido's Motorcycle Club leader - one of the biggest biker gangs in Australia.

"I got told to jump in the ring with him and I gave him a hiding," Joe says.

As a result he was asked to go to the Bandido's pad in Sydney to meet the president of the infamous gang.

So for his first date with wife-to-be Maria Erai, who was 17 at the time, they drove across town to the Bandidos' warehouse, which was surrounded by 200 Harley-Davidsons.

"We pulled up in this little bubble of a car," Maria recalls. "We were the only car in the carpark the rest were all Harleys. Of course everyone was drunk and thank God no one attacked me."

Joe was introduced to the president of the gang who offered him a job in security looking after his new club in Kings Cross.

Shortly after taking up the role it dawned on Joe he was slipping back into gang life, the same life he had left behind in New Zealand.

He left the job and affiliation with the gang, turning his sights on learning to read and write through the Church of Scientology. Only a month later the president of the Bandidos was shot dead.

Joe says the rest is history and now aged 46 he owns a successful business working in traffic control in Sydney.

He says what changed him was the teachings of Lafayette Ron Hubbard, the founder of the Church of Scientology, through his book The Way to Happiness and other basic courses.

Joe says last year he helped sponsor the translation of the book into Maori, for the first time, and was teaching it to a group of youth in his wider family.

He says he saw them going down the same track as he did and wanted to help them before they ruined their lives.

"The book is like codes of conduct which I use on my young guys in Sydney. Things like do not do to others what you would not want others to do to you. They have made me successful." he says.

Joe has even helped fund a new college in Taranaki called Hubbard College Leadership Aotearoa which is based on the non-religious teachings of Mr Hubbard.

Joe says he is now writing a book called From Gangs to Now to share his story for the benefit of others.


- Rotorua Daily Post

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