A jury considering 24 verdicts in New Zealand's first slavery trial is expected to start deliberating late tomorrow and could even take the case into a sixth week.
The possibility emerged in the High Court in Napier, after Crown prosecutor Clayton Walker's closing address, lasting almost four hours.
Defence counsel Roger Philip will deliver his closing address tomorrow morning followed by Justice Helen Cull's summary and directions to the jury of six women and five men.
Before the court is Samoan-born horticultural contractor Joseph Matamata (also known as Viliamu Samu), who claims the chieftain status of Matai in Samoa and wh has pleaded not guilty to 13 charges of dealing in slaves and 11 of trafficking people, on various dates spanning 25 years from late 1994 to April 2019.
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Walker focused first on the situation of a teenaged brother and sister who arrived in New Zealand in 1995 for what for they understood would be a month's holiday in 1995.
The trafficking charges were not laid in relation to either teen, as the charge did not exist at the time.
They were among 13 Samoan-national complainants brought to New Zealand by Matamata. The Crown says he was involved in the arrangements, deceiving them into believing they would be paid to work and be able to support themselves and families back home.
Instead there were allegations of people not being paid, being confined, with their passports taken from them, being subjected to violence and being afraid to speak out or complain, for fear of violence and other consequences.
In a departure from normal practice, Justice Cull allowed a lengthy documented "question trail" to be given to the jury ahead of the closing addresses.
Walker said the trafficking charge was about whether Matamata made the arrangements for mainly-family complainants — including air fares and arranging entry to New Zealand — and whether he intended to exploit them in New Zealand.
The slavery charges related to the events in New Zealand, and whether the complainants received the net income they believed they would get.
The Crown says Matamata was involved in the arrangements, intended to exploit the people once they arrived, and kept for his own benefit money they should have been paid.
"The idea is that in each case he was leading them to believe they were coming to New Zealand to earn money for the betterment of themselves and their families," he said.
"He led them to believe they were coming over to get money. He intended to keep the money, as the evidence shows he did. The Crown says he kept a huge amount of their income."
Highlighting the teens as examples of the intent and the confinement, Walker said they did not return to Samoa after the month was up and became overstayers.
The evidence was that been kept out of school at times and worked in the orchards, without being paid, and that he had described beatings, with indications of scars that had resulted.
His sister had been forced to work long hours in the home, up at 4am to prepare meals for those going to work, spending the day looking after children, preparing dinner and at night doing other chores.
When Matamata discovered the girl had escaped and fled to Auckland, Matamata flew north to collect and take her back to Hawke's Bay, allegedly with her wrists tied.
When the boy fled to the home of another community member, Matamata tracked him down and the police were called to a confrontation, and became angry after the boy told police he was 19 and police said he was old enough to make his own decision as to where he lived.
There was evidence of people being assaulted with an array of items, including metal, a Samoan cricket bat, and a secateur which was thrown at a young complainant and embedded in his arm.
It was a situation of Matamata exerting power and control, and using the people like "property", as if it were his own, Walker said.
At the start of the trial Walker told of a man who had worked six and seven days a week for 17 months without pay, and when not working was mainly confined at Matamata's fenced and gated home.
Frightened and feeling unable to complain to authorities, the man was ultimately freed by police and immigration officers in January 2017.
The situation sparked a major inquiry in which there were repeated similar stories.
Complainants gave evidence of assaults they said had been committed when they were as young as 12, including one said to have had a pair of secateurs embedded in his arm after they were thrown at him by the accused.
Walker said Matamata lied at a medical centre about how the injury was caused.
A boy told how he would beat his own cousin as ordered by Matamata, and would do it because he was too scared not to.
Walker said there was a pattern of power and control which the jury should consider.