A Chinese businessman whom the government has appointed to turn the $5.7million Vaitele market into a profitable venture has received more than $5million tala in loans from the Samoa National Provident Fund (S.N.P.F.).
In fact according to a document obtained by the Samoa Observer, it shows that as of 6th February 2017, Tu’itu’ioaiga Teeking Weng’s company, Super Wing Samoa Limited, owes the Fund $5.841,977.99.
The account at the S.N.P.F. is under the name “Weije Weng.” The Samoa Observer understands the loan has been approved with an interest rate of 7.2percent.
The document has surfaced after the S.N.P.F. refused to confirm or deny that it had lent money to the Chinese businessman.
“The details of individual loan accounts are protected by confidentiality and cannot be made public,” a statement issued by the Fund at the beginning of the week said. “We can assure our members and clients that their account details can only be accessed by the client themselves.”
But Super Wing Samoa Limited’s statement shows the company’s dealing with the Fund dates back to 2016 with an initial transfer of $412,119.40.
When the Samoa Observer approached Tu’itu’ioaiga for a comment, he denied he had a loan at the S.N.P.F.
“No loan, no loan,” he told the Samoa Observer reporter. “That’s all I can say and thank you for coming.”
Tu’itu’ioaiga’s loan with the S.N.P.F has come under the microscope after a member of the business community questioned the Fund, saying it should invest more in local businesses.
“They come as investors,” she said.
“What kind of investor comes to Samoa to rely on Samoa’s money? They are not investors, they are using us.
“I think the government should be concerned about this. If investors come, they have to bring their own money, not come and then borrow from Samoa. This is not right.”
The businesswoman questioned the Fund’s decision to lend to Tu’itu’ioaiga as well as Papua New Guinea’s Lamana Group responsible for the Taumeasina Island Resort.
The Chief Executive Officer of S.N.P.F, Faumuina Esther Lameko, did not reply to questions sent to her about the issue.
But the Fund’s Solicitor, Tanya Toailoa-Lagaaia, issued a response.
“The Fund's obligation to safe-guard the contributions of its members is a duty that the Fund undertakes with care and vigilance, and it is this duty to protect its members’ contributions that compels the Fund to lend money only when its lending policies have been satisfied,” the statement reads.
“The Fund has lent to young people hoping to build a home, communities desiring to build a new place of worship, and to businesses - newly formed, or established - engaged in various activities.
“Thus many individuals and businesses have applied, and all are welcome to apply, for financing - but, in the interests of protecting members’ contributions, those individuals and businesses must meet the lending criteria. This is in accordance with the Fund’s duty to its members.
“A member wishing to understand the Fund's financial position and performance in any given year is welcome to download the annual reports available online.”
Tu’itu’ioaiga, the Owner of Coin Save – among other businesses including a cigarette factory being built - recently won the tender to run the $5.7 million Vaitele Market.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi said the Chinese chief from Falevao is expected to make the government a quarter of a million tala a year from the venture.
Tuilaepa said he is confident the government will make a profit.
“Right now, we only get $23,000 tala a year from the market at Vaitele,” he said. “But from this proposal and the new plan, we will get more than $250,000 (quarter million) a year.
“That is a lot of money compared to the money we are getting now. This is also a great way to turn the market into something very useful.”
When the Samoa Observer approached the Chinese businessman to follow up what he is likely to do now that he has won the tender for the multi-million-tala project, he said: “I can’t confirm anything at this stage.
“As of today, I’m still trying to figure out what kind of business that we’re going to set up at the Vaitele Market.
“I’m still working on it now. That is all I can say until the next time.”