The news yesterday that fly-by-night Chinese investor, Jack Chen, has been jailed for fraud in China brought back memories (Tupa’i Jack Chen jailed for fraud).
It reminded about an infamous chapter in this country’s life where our poor and vulnerable people – mostly farmers in the villages - were fooled into turning Samoa to a land of nonu with the promises of riches that never eventuated.
Today, Samoa is full of nonu plants.
From Asau to Palauli, Fagaloa to Aleipata and just about all the places you can think of, nonu fruits are freely rotting on the ground.
Farmers on the other hand are not happy. Apart from having wasted their time, they feel betrayed because there was such a strong push – including from this government – for every man and his dog to plant nonu at the time.
But what a disappointment it has been.
And how things have quickly changed for the worst.
Today, the story on the front page of your newspaper from the South China Morning Post says it all.
Yes the Chinese man who waltzed into Samoa and fooled everyone – including this very government who happily accommodated him – is a fraud.
But he is not just a fraud. From what we’ve been told, he is also a money launderer among other things.
According to the report from China, at the sentencing Madam Justice Anthea Pang Po-kam said Chen was among the “masterminds and prime movers of the fraud scams, which had a grave impact on the general public and the stock market.”
As a result, apart from being jailed for more than seven years, Chen has been banned from managing a company for 10 years.
Looking at the broader picture, people like Chen are not new. There are many of them all over the world who operate in such a fashion.
And they will crop up from time to time all over the place. It’s life.
The question for us in small Samoa is how did this man manage to fool our leaders – and most of our people – so easily.
At this newspaper, this writer recalls being ridiculed and called all sorts of hurtful names by the leadership of this government when we initially raised questions about the legitimacy of Chen and his operation. We were laughed at, mocked and called “idiots” for simply asking the questions we exist to answer.
But look at what has happened now.
You see, while Chen is behind bars now where he truly belongs but many folks who came promising the sun and moon with Mr. Chen are still around. And that’s a real worry.
While some characters have quietly disappeared into oblivion, we don’t need to remind you about the high profile politicians whose names and faces will forever be associated with this sorry chapter of Samoa’s shameful attempt at so-called foreign investment.
These officials are still in positions of responsibility and very much still out there making key decisions that have widespread impact on our people.
For some of them, they have just carried on unashamedly very publically as if this was just one bad dream.
What guarantee do we have that this will not happen again? What lessons have we learnt?
If we are truthful, the answer is quite simple.
Nothing. Zilch. Absolutely naught, in as far as the government is concerned.
Which means that there is nothing there to stop another Chen from waltzing in doing another nonu classic all over again and the painful process repeating itself. Which is sad for our people and our country – especially with so many so-called “laui’a” sitting in government.
We talk about responsibilities, accountability and transparency.
This is one big joke when we think about this Chen saga.
Surely the head of some officials must roll, especially the ones who directly benefitted from this businessman. Surely the lessons learnt must be turned into decisive actions so that we do not have a repeat. Keep in mind that Chen has not been the only one.
Remember that guy with the Hollywood–type name and face? Where is he now? And what happened to his grand promises?
Perhaps that’s a story for another day.
In the meantime, have a productive Thursday Samoa, God bless!