20th November 10:32 PM
Australians winding up in costly property disputes in Fiji after buying land from fake chiefs
By Vijay Narayan
Monday 11/09/2017
Australians are buying beachfront Fiji properties from “fake chiefs” who have no right to sell the land. This was one of the disputed blocks (Photo: couriermail).

Australians are winding up in costly property disputes in Fiji after buying land from “fake chiefs” who are not the rightful owners.

The Courier Mail reports that former Gold Coast lawyer Sean Cousins is warning holiday makers not to fall for the “convincing” scams after discovering he had leased a 100 metres stretch of beachfront land from a vendor who was not the village chief as claimed.

He says Australians, New Zealanders, Americans and Germans should be aware that there are a number of Fijian people who claim to own the land and sell it to them and they don’t own it.

Former Gold Coast lawyer Sean Cousins (Photo: couriermail).

A regular visitor to Fiji, he had started looking for land three years ago when he was approached with an offer “too good to refuse” involving land in a popular tourist area.

Cousins says the man introduced himself as the chief and the landowner and he showed him his father’s grave and his two brothers’ graves.

He says it was all very convincing. 

There were about five or six houses and it really did appear to be one little family village.

They reached an agreement and he started paying a monthly fee to the “chief” to lease the land, then spent about $70,000 Australian dollars building a house on the block.

Locals subsequently informed him the land belonged to a larger gazetted village and he discovered he had been paying the wrong person.

He went to court in conjunction with the “real chief”, Ratu Taniela Gonerara, and won a judgment against the vendor in June for repayment of FJD$24,400.

Ratu Taniela Gonerara with his daughter Adi Tavo (Photo: couriermail).

Cousins subsequently obtained court orders bankrupting the vendor, and the real chief this week moved to evict the villagers involved.

We will have more on this issue later today.

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