The man accused in New Zealand's first slavery trial is waiting to hear his fate after five weeks of evidence concluded with his claim that his 13 alleged victims are motivated by money.
Samoan-born horticultural contractor Joseph Auga Matamata, 65, also known as Viliamu Samu, pleaded not guilty to 13 charges of dealing in slaves and 11 of trafficking people, from late 1994 to April 2019.
The trial at the High Court in Napier resumed today after being postponed on Friday because of two sick jury members.
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Defence counsel Roger Philip said Matamata was still "strongly rooted in Samoan culture" as a matai, or chief, and he had treated the complainants as family by providing them with food and shelter.
He said the complainants were free to leave the property or take part in sport or go to church.
"If he was a slave master, why [were] these men allowed to go and play rugby, attend sport, go and share meals with other guests who came to the house, walk the streets, buy alcohol, take a vehicle to work without Mr Matamata?"
Philip said the complainantsappeared to be motivated by money.
The Crown, which closed its case last Thursday, argued throughout the five-week trial before Justice Helen Cull, that Matamata deceived all 13 complainants into coming to New Zealand by promising them, or their parents in Samoa, paid work or schooling.
The court heard from Crown prosecutor Clayton Walker that Matamata paid for their flights, visas and passports.
But when they arrived they worked long hours for no pay, had to comply with strict rules, and were often beaten or threatened with physical abuse if they didn't complete their chores to Matamata's liking, Walker said.
But Philip said there was no pattern of behaviour to suggest the complainant's allegations were true.
He also questioned why people from the same village kept arriving from Samoa to stay with Matamata and his family over the 23-year period if they were treated badly.
"Surely in a small community that information would spread."
Justice Cull told the jury multiple complainants didn't mean the verdicts had to be the same.
The jury will return Tuesday morning to continue deliberating.