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Court orders ANZ Bank to pay $600,000 to Sogi couple

“Our society will not condone bully tactics by financial institutions against the underprivileged” – Justice Lesatele Rapi Vaai

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, SAMOA – 29 MARCH 2023: Justice Lesatele Rapi Vaai has ordered the ANZ Bank to pay $626,112 in compensation to Suluape and Aiga Emosi, a couple of Sogi.

The civil claim filed by the Emosis started in 2015 against the ANZ Bank for the illegal sale of their quarter acre land at Siusega among other claims.

At the time, the father Suluape Emosi was 83 years old and his wife Aiga Emosi 65.

When the bank foreclosed and sold the land in 2013, the couple was evicted by police when they refused to move. As a result, the husband was locked up by police in prison for the weekend.

Suluape Emosi passed away in 2019 aged 89 and with his land being sold, his body was buried temporarily at his brothers place.

An eviction order was then executed on Aiga Emosi and children and they found refuge with relatives who were living as squatters on swamp land at Sogi.

Aiga Emosi was 71 and “had been hospitalized several times due to the mental distress and anxieties,” said Justice Vaai.

Land mortgage with ANZ Bank
In 1984, Aiga Emosi won a substantial amount of money from a raffle and she and husband Suluape bought a ¼ acre land at Siusega. Her husband was a carpenter and he was able with the assistance of his children to build a house on the land.

In March 1999, the land was mortgaged as security for a loan with the ANZ Bank to complete the house.  The loan was fully paid off in 2004 however, the mortgage was not discharged.

The son’s four loans
Suluape’s son Alenepi asked his parents if he could use the land to secure a loan with ANZ Bank. The father agreed but the mother refused.

In February 2004, Alenepi and wife Meaalofa obtained a loan of $20,000 from ANZ Bank under Meaalofa’s name and was approved for a term of 2 years.

“Under the heading securities it is simply stated: “As held”. The letter is unsigned but the name S. Lauano is typed as the author of the letter. It is a two page letter which requested the borrower, Meaalofa, to sign at the bottom, to acknowledge acceptance of the loan terms.”

Alenepi and the bank officer S. Lauano then approached Suluape with a Guarantee Form which was a 9 page document to be signed by Suluape.

According to court documents the form was “signed by the husband but neither S. Lauano nor Alenepi signed as a witness. Neither was the certificate signed.

“The certificate required the witness to certify that the guarantor fully understood the true purport and effect of the guarantee and voluntarily executed the guaranteed.”

On the backing sheet of the guarantee form, the word “Replaced” is written.

Alenepi and Meaalofa took out a second loan of $13,000 in October 2004 and under the heading Security is written “Guarantee given by the father, Meaalofa Lee Lo.”

The letter signed by Silia Lauano also encouraged Meaalofa to seek legal advice.

“A deed of guarantee dated 20th October 2004 was signed by the husband and witnessed by S. Lauano but the certificate was not signed. On the back of the backing sheet is written the words: “Replaced.”

In August 2006, they took out a $30,000 loan.

Again the loan was guaranteed by the husband by a deed of guarantee dated 30th August 2006 and witnessed by a bank officer but the certificate is again not executed, stated court documents.

The final loan of $15,000 was also approved in May 2008 and ANZ Bank reminded Alenepi and Meaalofa that they owed the bank $54,437.00

 The letter of offer, unlike the previous letters of 2 pages, is eleven (11) pages and signed by one Bernie Morton, Head of Business and Financial Services.”

Loan in Default
Things didn’t go well for Meaalofa when she lost her job and the loan was in default.

The bank then issued default notices to Meaalofa and also Suluape and Aiga Emosi which also informed them that the land would be sold to cover the loan.

“The plaintiffs’ property was eventually sold for $130,000. By letter dated 18th March 2013, the solicitor for the defendant told the plaintiffs their mortgaged property had sold for $130,000 and the balance of $73,862.74 is available for them provided they vacate the property within 7 days.”

According to Suluape’s lawyer Ruby Drake, her client was not aware of the second, third and fourth loan, and did not consent to any of these loans nor guaranteed them.”

“Undoubtedly the plaintiffs suffered distress, inconvenience, anxiety, hardship and were emotionally drained when they lost their home in 2013. Aiga has been hospitalized several times due to the mental distress and anxieties,” said Justice Vaai.

“ANZ Bank rather than taking appropriate measures to ameliorate the suffering of the plaintiffs, particularly the wife since the passing of the husband, the defendant in high minded fashion continued to attempt to justify its illegal and unlawful conduct. I determine this an aggravating factor.

“Our society will not condone bully tactics by financial institutions against the underprivileged,” said Justice Lesatele Rapi Vaai.

He ruled in favour of the plaintiffs and ordered ANZ Bank to pay $626,112 to the plaintiff.

The Court payment cost on indemnity basis as follows:

  • Special damages -$204,862.72
  • General Damages -$221,250
  • Exemplary Damages -$200,000