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  • Maraehako Bay Retreat in Waihau Bay, New Zealand.

    Maraehako Bay Retreat in Waihau Bay, New Zealand. | Photo: Maraehako Bay Retreat

Published 16 May 2019

Hei was on trial for 26 charges, including stupefaction, at the Tauranga District Court and was found guilty of all charges except one charge of indecent assault. 

The former director at the Maraehako Bay Retreat in Waihau Bay, New Zealand, Pihi Hei, has been found guilty of 25 sexual offence charges, including rape, after being accused of treating two foreign workers as sex slaves. 

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Hei was on trial for 26 charges, including stupefaction (or administering a substance in drink to alter another person's perception with their knowledge), at the Tauranga District Court and was found guilty of all charges except one charge of indecent assault. 

Both women who accused Hei recounted a similar story of being offered positions as exchange workers at the resort. The Crown Prosecutor Heidi Wrigley stated that Hei targeted a specific type of victim and relied on their dependency and vulnerability to take advantage of them sexually. 

The victim of Japanese descent recalled being picked up from the airport by Hei and then driven to a Hamilton motel, where he booked for them both to stay in a single room. During his testimony, Hei claimed that this was not strange behavior.

"I felt like there was a relationship or something happening there and because of Maori culture, we don't mind all sleeping all underneath one roof." The victim added that she felt she needed to comply with the arrangement so she would not offend her employer. 

The victim said Hei raped her on the first night, and physically forced her to perform oral sex after she told him she was menstruating. The Japanese woman added that she did not know who to report the incident to since she had newly arrived in New Zealand.

After the first incident, she traveled with Hei to the Maraehako Bay Retreat and was continuously assaulted. After faking possible alcohol poisoning and convincing Hei to allow her to seek medical treatment, she reported Hei to the police. 

Her report led to police locating another victim, a Chinese woman, whose account included inappropriate comments and touching, and eventually rape. 

During the trial, Hei's lawyer attempted to frame the case as a "he said, she said" scenario, but the case fell apart when there was a struggle to identify defence witnesses, as per the Crown's request. 

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