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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Tonga real estate


CAVEAT EMPTOR! You may wish to read this report by the Royal Tonga Land Commission before you even THINK of putting money into Tongan real estate!


The Kingdom of Tonga is such a beautiful place that many yearn to own a slice of this piece of paradise! This has not gone unnoticed by some of the white-shoe brigade who have taken up residence there to engage in dealings which would appear to be scams and designed to financially exploit unsuspecting foreigners and Tongan land owners alike. Things have become so bad that the Government of Tonga is now forced to convene an Inquiry into the Unlawful Sale and Leases of Land in Vava'u.

I have had a genuine interest in Tongan real estate ever since I began my extensive travels there in 2006 and after I had read about a house-and-land deal on the island of Nuapapua which was being marketed by a Gordon Allison in Bundaberg in Australia in late 2007.

Two other real estate agents, one in Austalia, the other in New Zealand, who had listed Gordon Allison's deals, had suddenly pulled them off the web and all that remained were websites of his property deals here and here and here and on a score of other websites.

(Can't find those websites either? Gone today and here tomorrow? Yes, they reinvented themselves as Coral Garden Villas. Different website, same promoter.)

Wondering what was going on, I tried to contact the brain behind those deals, the same Gordon Allison I had telephoned in 2007, but I could not contact him at his last-known address P.O. Box 2223, Bundaberg 4670. I therefore emailed Nesha Rosic of vavaurealestate.com, an expatriate living in Tonga who was trying to make a living dabbling in real estate and also said to be associated with Gordon Allison:


From: riverbend
To: Nesha Rosic info@vavaurealestate.com
Sent: Sun, January 10, 2010 7:37:47 PM

I noticed that TWO real estate agents, one in Bundaberg where Gordon used to hang out, and another in New Zealand, have removed their listings of Gordon's Tongan real estate offers. Do they know something I should know?

N.B. I did email both agents inquiring about the Tongan real estate offer and also send an email to john@eldersbundaberg.com.au who seems to be the resident Australian agent on this Tongan real estate deal. I received no reply to any of my emails which in itself is quite a revelation as most agents would just about break their legs in the rush to follow up on an inquiry!


to which I received the following reply:


----- Original Message -----
From: Nesha Rosic
To: riverbend
Sent: Monday, January 11, 2010 12:33 PM

Riverbend, what I know locally is that Gordon just started building another two homes on top of eight he already build.

As I mentioned before, I am not his real estate agent and am not familiar with any in new zealand or bundaberg and their listings. I believe Gordon is in Vava'u and I heard he just opened new office so you might try to email him at email I have: gordon.allison@hotmail.com and ask him directly.
Also, it is a common knowledge locally that there is a cyber smear campaing agaist him and his business on the internet and it appears has noting to do with reality. Looks like it is a criminal extortion plot and apparently transnational authorities are dealing with it right now. Latest is that it appears gordon is dealing with it right way and that is probably why they removed listings if they ever existed until they catch the criminals that are doing it. Again, you need to contact gordon or mantioned real estate agencies if you need to know more.

Regards, Nesha


Boy, how exciting! Make a simple real estate inquiry and immediately become involved in an extortion plot! I am sure if Alfred Hithcock were still alive today, he'd turn this into another movie!

I read a lot of stuff on the web but tend to make up my own mind about things. However, this chap was literally rubbing my nose in it and almost daring me to GOOGLE for more information. Was this some sort of fiendish "come-on-I-dare-you" reverse advertising ploy? Anyway, I GOOGLEd for it:




Well, thank you, Nesha! You certainly have given me a lot to read and think about. Is all this true? Who has written this stuff? And here I was, having thought the internet was just for the dissemination of porn!

Anyway, why should I worry? I am just an innocent onlooker in what appears to be a battle royal in some little island paradise. Let them sort it out amongst themselves. I stick to my old advice "CAVEAT EMPTOR" (and if you don't know what that means, stay away from real estate; you aren't ready for it!)

At least I now had Gorden Allison's email to inquire about the property deal which we had last discussed over the telephone in late 2007 when he still lived in Bundaberg. This is what I replied:


----- Original Message -----
From: riverbend
To: Nesha Rosic
Sent: Monday, January 11, 2010 12:57 PM

Thanks for that!

Yes, I read a blog on the web about all those wheelings and dealings in the Tongan real estate market. Almost as bad as the Bali market where I had invested previously.

As for those 99-year leases which are offered, are they legitimate? I thought the Government only allowed 20-year leases with re-assessments at 5-year intervals.


Here is the agent's reply:


To: riverbend
Sent: Tuesday, January 12, 2010 8:59 AM

Riverbend, let me go to your email below.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
From: riverbend
To: Nesha Rosic info@vavaurealestate.com
Sent: Mon, January 11, 2010 5:06:26 AM
Subject: Fw: Re:

I take it from your non-response that the 99-year leases are NOT legitimate.
--- only simpletons would not know that there is a time difference between Australia and Tonga. Non-response was because i close my office at 4 and go home to my family, play with kids and have a dinner. Any messages that come after that I deal next morning if I feel they are worth answering. I believe you have a twisted agenda and that is why you rushed to judgment. Regardless, 99 year leases are legitimate if approved by cabinet and you receive Deed of Lease. I would know because I obtained 99 year deed of lease for my clients.

As for the 'nice properties' Gordon Allison built: he mailed me from Bundaberg some location sketches which show beachfront properties.
--- all buildings start with sketches and maybe Gordon Allison did not follow up because he thought you are not worthy of doing business with, as you are proving to me also. I would never do business with you either. I do not deal with simpleton land speculators that do not sign their emails. I only deal with legitimate investors that are willing to do their business in tonga legitimately.
Regardless, I am attaching pictures of some homes built for your peace of mind and to show you how wrong you are by engaging in syber smear campaign. Same time I am forwarding our correspondance to relevant authorities and perhaps you can explain to them your association with robert Bryce and why you are doing what you are doing. If you have an animosty toward Gordon Allison because he is a legitimate investor developer and just by what he is doing is putting you and your friend and associate Robert Bryce and other speculators out of business, you do not have the right to conspire and defame me, ministers, officials and nobility of Tonga on various blogs. It is criminal and we are pursueing it with tongan and australian authorities. You are either seriously misguided or seriously malicious person and we will leave it to due process.

As you have also since visited my own webpages and know that you are not dealing with a simpleton, you are probably not surprised that I have made my own inquiries.
--- only simpletons would not sign their own emails pretending they are legitimate investors.


My inquiry with the appropriate places in Tonga tell me that these beachfront locations are owned by an entirely different party.
--- only simpletons would enquire in wrong places. Where did you enquire? In Robert Bryces registry in Fiji. As I am aware, only title registry in Tonga is a Ministry of the Lands and only existing titles on the land in Tonga are Deed of Grant and Deed of Lease or Sub-Lease.

Regards, Nesha


N.B. This Robert Bryce he mentioned must be the same Bryce who wrote some delightful articles about life in Tonga. "Discovery TV is boring compared to the discoveries one makes in Tonga," writes Bryce in one of his articles. He forgot to mention the real estate agent from Transylvania!


Wow! That was quite a filthy mouthful in response to a simple and innocent inquiry. Makes one wonder if he's got anything to hide! Is it all about attack being the best defense? I mean it's hardly Marquess of Queensberry stuff to be kicked in the crotch for just asking some pretty pertinent questions, is it? Pity the chap does not live in Australia or I would indeed have the authorities deal with him! Anyway, here is a map of the beachfront villas on Nuapapu offered to me back then in 2007:

Click on images to enlarge

and the contract described the location as follows:

Click on images to enlarge
Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6  of lease agreement

Compare this to the map held by the other two claimants to the allegedly same piece of real estate, a Richard Mortimer and an Eric Stark. They seem to be holding ALL of the beachfront land:

Anyway, what could I say? This is what I wrote:


It seems you don't like me!!! :-)

To make your investigations with the authorities easier for you, here are my full details: http://www.riverbendnelligen.com/cv.html

I look forward to hearing from you in due course.


The response was not slow in coming:


Reverbend, let me go to your email.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
From: riverbend
To: Nesha Rosic info@vavaurealestate.com
Sent: Mon, January 11, 2010 6:24:10 PM

It seems you don't like me!!! :-)
--- not really, I never met you. If anything, I fill sory for you being so obsessed. I believe you are just a misguided blind follower of Robert Bryce's cult. That is not an excuse for what you are doing but if that is any consolation to you, you are not only one. Out of many in the past, there are only few left in vava'u because everybody realized that he is a fake and a fraud, only some hard core followers on the web that are removed from reality, as you.

To make your investigations with the authorities easier for you, here are my full details: http://www.riverbendnelligen.com/cv.html
--- I do not need to. They are not simpletons, they will figure it by themselves. My understanding is that subpoenas are in the process of being issued in US to the forums administrators to reveal the sources. I am sure you would do the same if somebody try to ruin your life and business on the web.

I look forward to hearing from you in due course.
--- in due course you will indeed. In meantime I hope you will wake up, smell the roses and cooperate with authorities and make yourself some kind of plea bargain. Do not lie to them in depositions as you do in the forums. That is never good idea.

Regards, Nesha


Well, I couldn't let that one go through to the keeper so I replied:


Obsessed? No, but hugely amused by your persecution complex! I'll be even more amused when I finally hear from you again through the authorities, whatever and wherever they may be.

In the meantime, full marks for your Public Relations skills!!! :-)

It seems that you are suffering from a very extreme case of persecution complex or why else would you be jumping to the conclusion that I am conspiring and defaming and engaging in a smear campaign just by asking a few simple questions of you.

Yes, I certainly read those blogs but they are certainly not mine nor do I know who wrote them. However, they certainly don't do your business, such as it is, any good. It seems that anybody who does not immediately accept your statements at face value is engaging in a smear campaign against you.

I certainly have better things to do than to make the lives of impecunious expats in Tonga who are desperately trying to make a living even more miserable! I now await whatever 'due process' you have in mind.

I'll make a point of looking you up next time I come to Neiafu! In the meantime, enjoy your day in paradise, such as it is! :-)



Given the rapid-fire exchange of our previous email exchange, I settled back in my chair in front of the computer in expectation of an entertaining afternoon (the day was pretty dull otherwise and the sharemarket was showing little movement) but there was nothing! NOTHING!!! Come on, Nesha, keep up the serve! Here's my almost begging email:


I trust you will keep this email exchange going for a little longer! You see, I am retired and your emails certainly keep me hugely entertained. They also stimulate my mind which is very important to delay the onset of Alzheimer's :-)

So keep on keeping on, my friend! I love to hear more from you!!! :-) I am sure you have lots and lots of time as I can't imagine that with your PR skills you are actually SELLING very much :-)



But Nesha had decided to go back outside and play in his sandbox (or whatever one does on a small tropical island), so instead of hearing from that loose cannon, I received an email from the Big Gun himself:


Dear Mr.Goeman, I have been sent a copy of your emails to Mr.Rossic. You previously dealt with Yes real-estate who no longer work with us. We have our own office in Bundaberg. Our New Zealand agents are helping us with the email that was sent to them and we asked them to remove our listing until our investigations are concluded. Your information will be passed on to our lawyers to consider the possibility of defamation. You seem to be trying to get information on behalf of Robert Bryce ahead of the Royal commission. You have no idea what we do or how we go about business except for the internet blogs. Suffice to say that through a company in th US. who in joint effort with other organizations has done a good job on sorting it out,we will have some legal action soon as this has been nothing short of extortion. Your emails will be sent to them as we have an expert on word analysis who is looking at all emails I have received over the past 3 years. We are in the process of sending the relevant sites legal papers forcing them to give the internet information to date. We are aware that most were sent from various internet cafes so they would be hard to trace but it hasn't worked. I ask you is this the work of an honorable person who hides behind fake names? I think not,but you aline [sic] your self with them. However if you bothered to check we are building away with the full backing of the Tongan authorities, have had visits to the island by all the heads of the relevant ministries and with 2 other developments soon to be marketed in the USA our company are the largest investors in the tourism field here. The Government are as are all my investors very aware of the blogs and the Supreme court case we won which clearly states our company is the legal owner on the lease for Nuapapu. The silly thing is I am not the major shareholder which makes the blogs even more ridiculous. If you have any questions please send them to me to answer and if you need further evidence call the ministers of any of the relevant ministries or the Governors office in Vavau.
yours without prejudice,
Gordon Allison


Yours without prejudice indeed! Anyway, one well-crafted email deserves another so I replied:


Dear Mr Allison

Thank you for your email. For your information, my correct name is Goerman, not Goeman, just in case you or your lawyers want to contact me again.

If you have taken the trouble of reading through the sequence of emails between myself and your associate or agent, Mr Rossic, you will have noticed that I made a very general inquiry with him in which I also questioned the availability of the 99-year lease on real estate in Tonga. As you will know from our last communication in late 2007, I have had a genuine interest in the properties on offer on Nuapapu. However, in the light of the extensive negative coverage Tongan real estate has received on the internet, I am proceeding with extreme caution and try to collect as much information as possible from agents past and present who are or have been involved with the marketing of these properties. The fact that none of those agents have so far replied to my emails is not encouraging.

Nor are Mr Rossic's emails which went totally "off the rails" once I had questioned whether the 99-year lease was a legitimate land transfer in Tonga. He immediately suggested, as you do, that I was trying to defame him or conspire against him, and that I was a cover for or working for somebody else with whom you have a dispute. You also seem to labour under similar misapprehensions. Instead of his emails reassuring me, they have only raised my concerns even further. Of course, judging by Mr Rossic's name, he may use English as a second language and therefore have problems writing a more measured response which is why I appreciate yours which at least is readable and well reasoned.

I sincerely hope that the inquiry by the Royal Land Commission will restore a measure of confidence in real estate dealings in Tonga. Following Mr Rossic's totally uncalled-for outbursts (to use a mild term) which reflect appallingly on everybody engaged in the real estate business in Tonga, I thought it appropriate to submit the whole sequence of emails to the secretary of the Royal Land Commission. Ms Gloria Pole'o has since acknowledged receipt of my email and confirmed that it has been distributed to the Commissioners. I have also copied her in on this email which I hope to be my last email on this subject which has certainly convinced me not to bother dealing with ANY expatriate real estate agents in Tonga.

I remain an extensive traveller to Tonga, a country which I love and amongst whose citizens, both in Tonga and here in Australia, I have several good friends. However, until it is possible to deal direct with a Tongan citizen to purchase real estate, I will not consider it as I certainly would not want to deal with expatriates whose antecedents and credentials are impossible to verify and who may only live in Tonga long enough to do a few "deals" before moving on again. The sooner Tongans themselves conduct their own real estate business, the better!

And the sooner certainty and legality can be restored to Tongan land dealings, the sooner Tongan real estate prices will increase to reflect the properties' true values. Higher prices such as those obtained in other South Pacific Island nations will automatically attract the sort of buyers Tonga can benefit from: buyers who are possessed of assets and are able not only to financially support themselves but who are also able to bring much-needed foreign exchange and investment capital into Tonga. In my travels in Tonga I have met far too many expatriates who settled there for no other reason than that they were financially so destitute that Tonga was the only place they could afford to live in. Tonga deserves better than that!

Sincerely
Peter Goerman


I didn't have long to wait for Gordon's reply:


Dear Mr. Goerman, you have said exactly what I have been saying all along re Vacant land sales. In fact you do not have to deal through an agent at all only the Gov.for Vava'u and the land office. 99 leases are available and I am aware that Mr.Rossic has done some. With a development company like ours your lease is with the company. In order to get a full gov.lease you need to have a min.30 poles of land....not possible in a resort development. Insure you get a L9 form with any deal you may do and remember tenancy agreements on vacant land are not valid. Nesha is not my agent but the only legitimate real estate person here and does every thing by the book. Yes he tends to get a little excited from time to time.
Regards, Gordon Allison
PS. The blogs have not been widely read some only 20 to 30 hits over 3 months world wide. We are advised now through Canberra ,which is the headquarters of the CIA internet surveillance for the Pacific, every time someone logs in to the sites. This blogging is a serious and major international crime not only at me but the Tongan Government.

This didn't really call for any further reply. In any case I had become quite sick and tired of this storm-in-a-teacup. However, on reflection I thought the CIA-stuff was a bit too thick to go unchallenged so I added this little email:

HOLY SH%#!!! You're right! I had just logged onto http://www.frommers.com/community/forum.cfm/australia-south-pacific/tonga/thinking-of-investing-vavau-tonga-beware-of-gordon-allison and had got to the end of the first line "...attracts shady ..." when the phone rang and a dark voice inquired, "What are you doing there? This is the CIA and we are watching you!"

Boy, was I rattled! But it didn't stop there!

Minutes later a Blackhawk helicopter hovered over my house and men in riotgear began abseiling down onto the roof.

We did finish up having quite an animated conversation as we sat on the verandah with a few cold beers. I asked why all this excitement about poxy little blogs . They admitted that they had failed to catch Bin Laden and quite a few other things weren't going all that well either, so in order to keep their boys employed they had started their surveillance of blogs pertaining to Tongan real estate.

You certainly were lucky to engage them when things were a bit slack!


And that's where the matter rests! As it should! I mean, who wants to deal with a colubrine real estate agent who libels you, bullies you with threats of legal action, and puts you under CIA surveillance, all because you asked a simple question?

In the meantime, my advice - which is free, abundant and probably totally useless - to anybody who wants to buy Tongan real estate: Don't ask questions, just send a cheque!

I have just cancelled mine!

While 99% of real estate agents give the rest a bad name, it may just be possible to still find a good one. Click on the "Google Search" button below:



P.S. In the meantime, the real estate business in Tonga remains as creative as it has always been!

Here's the Crow's Nest Café in Neiafu, for sale at US$85,000 (they bought it for just under US$40,000 less than five years ago).

And here is the same café for "sale" by lottery or some sort of competition. They want to get together a minimum of 650 contestants at US$200 each - or a total of US$130,000 - before they kick off the scheme.

But where is the trust account to hold the "deposits" and where is the notary supervision to ensure that there will be a fair contest - or a contest at all?

The fifty finalists will be notified on the 1st of April 2010 which happens to be April Fool's Day! (I have just looked again and the closing date has already been postponed from 31 March 2010 to 31 May 2010; not enough takers yet or was the 1st of April a bad omen?)


This is what a Tongan friend of mine thinks of the scheme:

It would be interesting to know the outcome. Have to wait for a while. I wonder if there are really 650 people stupid enough to fall for this scheme. When there is enough money in the bank someone will probably run away with it. Given the current problems in Tonga, the lack of shipping between islands, one ancient plane which was built in New Zealand in 1943 for air traffic and the prospect of serious food shortages within a month after the recent cyclone - who would be so stupid to try and run a business in Tonga? One doesn't have to be a pessimist to see what Tonga will be like in the near future. Our son rang from Ha'apai to tell us about a funeral. A box of chicken already costs more than 100 Paanga. The food needed for one funeral can empty all the remaining food stocks in the stores with no new supplies coming in. In Vavau the only staple food available are sweet potatoes. Due to petrol shortages there will probably also be few boats to go out for fishing. Lucky are the people who have their own plantations. But it will take time for bananas etc. to regrow. Another paradise lost. Tongans are tough and know how to survive all sorts of desasters. Palangis can only try to run away. The bad guys among them will not be missed.

I say Amen to that!