Coco Palms continued

  • Bethany Freudenthal/The Garden Island

    Developer Tyler Greene, co-owner of Coco Palms Hui, testified during the civil trial that he and Chad Waters are the true owners of the contested land where the famous Coco Palms Resort once stood, before it was damaged during Hurricane Iniki and lay in waste for nearly two decades.

  • Bethany Freudenthal/The Garden Island

    Through his Hawaiian Language Interpreter Kumu Hina, co-defendant Kamu “Charles” Hepa, testifies during a civil trial against ejectment from a piece of land in Wailua where developers hope to reconstruct the famed Coco Palms Resort on.

LIHUE — Thursday’s continuance in the Coco Palms civil case was continued again to this morning because Hawaiian language interpreter Kumu Hina wasn’t present.

“We received information this morning that Ms. Kalu-Wong is not available today. She indicated that she was available at our last hearing,” Judge Michael Soong said.

His staff confirmed her availability for today.

Attorney for the plaintiffs, Wayne Nasser, asked if there was a possibility in finding an alternate interpreter because they have to travel from Oahu.

“I understand that,” Soong said. “We have a difficult time finding Hawaiian interpreters. We have one on island, but he does only Niihau Island.”

Nasser then asked if they could proceed without an interpreter. Soong asked defendant Kamu Hepa if he wanted his interpreter present. Hepa objected.

Soong apologized, saying this was something that was beyond the court’s control.

“We expected to resume today and possibly conclude today, but it will have to be continued to 8:30 a.m. tomorrow,” he said.

The Trial

For over a month Soong has presided over a civil case filed in district court by developers Chad Waters and Tyler Greene of Coco Palms Hui LLC, against defendants Noa Mau-Espirito and Kamu Hepa, whom for nearly a year have occupied a portion of the contested land, prohibiting development.

Coco Palms Hui LLC purchased the land through a title agreement from an insurance company, while Mau-Espirito and Hepa claim the land through ancestry and royal patent.

The case being heard could result in the ejection of the defendants from the property, which could result in the continued development of the new Coco Palms Hotel.

If Soong rules in favor of the defendants, they said they would likely develop the land into a cultural and religious center for the Kanaka Lahui Nation, that would include a school an elder’s home and a farm.

The trial began with Soong ruling against a motion of dismissal filed with the court by the defendants on Nov. 9.

Dismissal, the defendants argued, was based on the courts lack of jurisdiction over the matter at hand, which is who is rightfully entitled to possess the land. The trial, Soong said, is not to determine title.

“District Court doesn’t have any jurisdiction on an action that involves Title II real estate and if there’s a question of title, that would lie with Circuit Court,” Soong said.

Testifying on behalf of Coco Palms Hui LLC, Greene has maintained that the LLC is the rightful owners of the property. He told the court of their warranty deed to the property, when they purchased the property and of their plans to develop the property. Those plans, Greene said, have been deterred due to those who are occupying the land.

“The goal has always been bring back Coco Palms,” Greene said.

Greene told the court his company has attempted to work with the defendants, offering them a position on the board of the planned cultural center that will be built along with the hotel, but Mau-Espirito and Hepa declined.

Representing themselves in court, Mau-Espirito and Hepa have maintained that they are the rightful owners of the land through ancestry.

Mau-Espirito says he is an heir from the Kamehameha bloodline, while Hepa says he is an heir of Queen Deborah Kapule and Simeon Kaiu.

The defendants claim the title search used by Coco Palms Hui to purchase the land contains errors.

“The title ownership is fictitious, because my cousin (Hepa), sitting right there, (pointing to Hepa), is the heir to Queen Deborah Kapule and the rightful owner of the land,” Mau-Espirito said.

As native tenants, the defendants have claimed through a Supreme Court ruling, they cannot be ejected from the land because they are using it for religious and cultural purposes. Mau-Espirito has also cited the United Nations Genocide Convention 260 from 1948, claiming many of the activities being done to him are considered a war crime.

Hepa’s testimony is expected to continue in court today, with Soong saying the trial could possibly conclude.

One piece of property, two ideas for development

In Wailua, Hepa says he wants to develop the 17-acre parcel of land into a cultural center for the Kanaka Maoli-Lihue Nation.

There’s much to be done, but the fledgling farm has banana trees, pineapple plants, passion fruit plants, three kinds of taro and medicinal plants.

Eventually, he said, they’ll build homes in Wailua to house those in need.

He said they’re planning on building a culturally relevant school for the children and a home for the elderly.

The home, he said, will have a place for kupuna women to continue making traditional arts and crafts.

The land, he said, is for his people and that’s why he’s fighting so hard to keep it from being developed.

Damaged by Hurricane Iniki in 1992, the famed resort lay in waste for 20 years, with no one claiming ownership rights during public hearings about the matter, though several developers have previously attempted to reconstruct the hotel throughout the years, but to no avail.

Since 2012, Waters and Greene, have been trying to develop the property, with the $3.5 million selective demolition process that began in June, with initial plans to begin phase II of the renovation and reconstruction, scheduled for early spring.

The $175 million project will boast about 400 rooms, 12,000 square feet of retail space, three restaurants, leisure areas and a four-acre cultural center.

9 Comments
  1. larry January 19, 2018 3:44 am Reply

    our roads cant handle anymore visitors…..are they crazy
    tear it down and leave it down


  2. Uncleaina January 19, 2018 6:14 am Reply

    Kamehameha never owned any land on Kauai. Plus there are hundreds of descendants from Kapule alive today. So why do these guys think they own anything? And how convenient that it’s right next to the road! These guys tell so many lies – there’s not 40 people living down there..more like 5-6. They drive trucks, have electric lights – is this “cultural practice” ? And the stench of their human waste is disgusting!


  3. concerned kauai resident January 19, 2018 8:47 am Reply

    Charles Hepa and Noa Mau Espirito are talking about building hospitals, housing, elderly housing, stores, etc. etc. With what revenue? They can’t even hold down a job. People of Kaua’i, this is getting laughable.Pretty soon they’re going to be talking about building a 5 star hotel, and airport, theme park with Moana and the like, and with what money? Obviously those last few things were sarcastically said. but you get my drift. Auwe with these squatters. Do something useful with the land. Not squat, build cheap tents from walmart, and raise fish (Tilapia, which has been there since the beginning of time!!!)


  4. Manawai January 19, 2018 9:01 am Reply

    How can the defendants (Hepa & Mau-Espiritu) even contemplate the things they say they plan to do when they can’t even afford to hire an attorney to represent them in court. Or maybe they don’t what an attorney to represent them since they get far more play in court, and the media, by being “pro se” (self represented without legal assistance). These guys know they have no case and are merely doing this for the attention in their small community of homeless, jobless people. This is an abuse of our legal system and an affront to all legitimate citizens (Hawaiian and other) who must pay for this waste of the court’s time.


  5. rk669 January 19, 2018 4:35 pm Reply

    Kauai’s Circus,free to all with nothing else to watch on TV?


  6. Paid2Talk January 19, 2018 6:02 pm Reply

    It’s your last weekend guys. Better celebrate the time you had squatting on someone else’s land. Sad thing is they’re gonna go trespass somewhere else. Hope it’s not your land and you have to spend months and in this case YEARS fighting for what is yours. This is such a waste of time and if Noa and Hepa had a case don’t you think someone versed in Hawaiian culture and land ownership would have taken this on Pro-Bono…such a shame that it takes all this to prove ownership…its a joke. Before you supporters start calling me haol’e … I am Hawaiian and probably more of a royal descendent than these clowns.


  7. Fathom January 30, 2018 1:23 pm Reply

    THINGS ARE NOT ALWAYS AS THEY APPEAR!

    Coco Palms Hyatt Resort developers have solicited investment loans of $500,000 each from as many as 172 wealthy Foreign Nationals, in exchange for automatic Green Cards and a direct path to U.S. Citizenship for these rich investors and each of their family members. These EB-5 Visas are often referred to as “Golden Visas’ for this reason.

    This Coco Palms Application, in the link below, shows how $86 million (2/3’s of the budget) for the 12,000 sq.’ Hyatt Resort was being raised through wealthy Foreign Nationals in exchange for Green Cards and a path to U.S. Citizenship for them and their family.

    These types of insured $500,000 ‘investment loans’ from wealthy foreign investors are happening all over Kaua`i, Hawai`i, and the United States of America —

    “The proposal identifies the new commercial enterprise (“NCE”) of the project as Lexden Coco Palms Loan Company, LLC, which was formed in the State of Delaware on January 31, 2014. The project is located at 4-947 Kuhio Highway, Kapaa, on the island of Kauai in the State of Hawaii. 172 immigrant investors will subscribe to the NCE as limited partners in exchange for capital contributions of $500,000 each and an aggregate of $86 million. The NCE will loan the $86 million of EB-5 capital to a third-party entity, Coco Palms Resort. The EB-5 capital loan proceeds will be used to acquire and re-launch The Coco Palm Resort as the Coco Palms by Hyatt in Kauai.”

    You can find this quote in the Lexden-Coco Palms Loan Company, LLC application at this link —

    http://www.cocopalmseb5.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Approval_Lexden_Hawaii.pdf

    The problem is, not even the U.S. Government is able to verify the true identities of these wealthy investors and their families, nor are they actually able to validate where this money comes from. That is why these types of investments may pose a National Security threat for us all. Here is a report from the United States Government Accountability Office —

    “The report concluded that because of difficulties ensuring the integrity of the Regional Center Program, USCIS was limited in its ability to prevent fraud or national security threats and could not demonstrate that the program was benefiting the U.S. economy and creating full-time employment as required by law.”

    “USCIS has identified fraud and national security risks in the EB-5 Program in various assessments it conducted over time and in collaboration with its interagency partners.”

    “Specifically, a senior FDNS official noted that while adjudication of petitions in the EB-5 Program, like other immigration programs, centers on the eligibility of the petitioner, the EB-5 Program also has an investment component that creates increased program complexity and the potential for fraud risks.”

    “However, according to USCIS officials, it can be difficult to verify the sources of immigrant investors’ funds and such verification difficulties could pose fraud risks to the program. For example, USCIS officials told us that some petitioners may have strong incentives to report inaccurate information about the source of their funds on their applications in instances when the funds come from illicit—and thus ineligible—sources, such as funds obtained through drug trade, human trafficking, or other criminal activities.”

    “USCIS officials said that IPO and FDNS did not have a means to verify self-reported immigrant financial information with many foreign banks. In addition, both USCIS and State officials noted that they did not have authority to verify banking information with many foreign countries. For example, State officials said that because the U.S. government lacks access to many foreign financial systems, there is no reliable method to verify the source of the funds of petitioners.”

    “Legitimacy of investment entity – The amount of investment required to participate in the EB-5 Program, coupled with the fact that EB-5 investors are making an investment in order to obtain an immigration benefit, can create fraud risks tied to unscrupulous regional center operators and intermediaries. According to SEC officials, they have identified instances of fraudulent investment schemes, including securities fraud, related to EB-5 investments.”

    https://www.gao.gov/assets/680/671940.pdf

    This ‘Advisory’ from the ‘U.S. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network’ (FinCEN) one of many reasons the Lexden-Coco Palms Loan Company’s statement about their EB-5 Visa program should be a concern to us all —

    “Although FinCEN to date has focused on residential real estate, money laundering can also involve commercial real estate transactions.”

    “Real estate transactions and the real estate market have certain characteristics that make them vulnerable to abuse by illicit actors seeking to launder criminal proceeds. For example, many real estate transactions involve high-value assets, opaque entities, and processes that can limit transparency because of their complexity and diversity. In addition, the real estate market can be an attractive vehicle for laundering illicit gains because of the manner in which it appreciates in value, “cleans” large sums of money in a single transaction, and shields ill-gotten gains from market instability and exchange-rate fluctuations. For these reasons and others, drug traffickers, corrupt offcials, and other criminals can and have used real estate to conceal the existence and origins of their illicit funds.”

    “FinCEN’s analysis of BSA and GTO reported data, law enforcement information, and real estate deed records, as depicted by the case studies in this advisory, indicates that high-value residential real estate markets are vulnerable to penetration by foreign and domestic criminal organizations and corrupt actors, especially those misusing otherwise legitimate limited liability companies or other legal entities to shield their identities. In addition, when these transactions are conducted without any financing (i.e., “all-cash”), they can potentially avoid traditional anti-money laundering (AML) measures adopted by lending financial institutions, presenting increased risk.”

    “Money laundering is a crime orchestrated to conceal the source of illegal proceeds so that the money can be used without detection of its criminal source.”

    “Use of Shell Companies Decreases Transparency – Criminals launder money to obscure the illicit origin of their funds. To this end, money launderers can use a number of vehicles to reduce the transparency of their transactions. One such vehicle, highlighted in the below case study, is the use of shell companies. Shell companies are typically non-publicly traded corporations, limited liability companies (LLCs), or trusts that have no physical presence beyond a mailing address and generate little to no independent economic value.Most shell companies are formed by individuals and businesses for legitimate purposes, such as to hold stock or assets of another business entity or to facilitate domestic and international currency trades, asset transfers, and corporate mergers. Shell companies can often be formed without disclosing the individuals that ultimately own or control them (i.e., their beneficial owners) and can be used to conduct financial transactions without disclosing their true beneficial owners’ involvement. Criminals abuse this anonymity to mask their identities, involvement in transactions, and origins of their wealth, hindering law enforcement efforts to identify individuals behind illicit activity.”

    “Criminals can use all-cash purchases to make payments in full for properties and evade scrutiny— on themselves and the origin of their wealth—that is regularly performed by financial institutions in transactions involving mortgages. All-cash transactions account for nearly one in four residential real estate purchases, totaling hundreds of billions of dollars nationwide, and are particularly exposed to abuse.”

    The entire FinCEN report can be read at this link —

    https://www.fincen.gov/sites/default/files/advisory/2017-08-22/Risk%20in%20Real%20Estate%20Advisory_FINAL%20508%20Tuesday%20%28002%29.pdf

    Here is how another Kaua`i resort development is soliciting these EB-5 investment loans to wealthy Foreign Nationals —

    http://www.sihl.in/pdf/hyatt-coconut-beach-resort-hawaii.pdf

    As this 2015 column explains —

    “WHAT’S REALLY AT STAKE IN THE EB-5 INVESTOR VISA OVERHAUL: HONESTY”

    “Through the EB-5 visa program, wealthy foreigners can invest $500,000 to $1 million in development projects and in turn, receive green cards for themselves and family members if the investment can be shown to create 10 U.S. jobs. The program is now up for Congressional reauthorization.”

    “The ability to monetize a scarce public asset — access to the United States — has become a gravy train for developers seeking cheap loans, immigration attorneys, China-based migration agencies and federally-authorized investment packagers known as regional centers.”

    “The profits at stake prompt deceptive practices — both in marketing investments and claiming job creation — that distort the intent if not the letter of the law.”

    “But claiming that EB-5 investments create jobs at no expense to the taxpayer is bogus. It’s also why an expected compromise regarding reauthorization of EB-5 falls short, despite improvements to the program.”

    “The green card alchemizes profits. Think about it: As long they get green cards, the immigrant investors don’t really care about interest and will take a 1 percent return. Meanwhile, the entrepreneurs getting the loan are eager to pay the regional center 5 to 8 percent as opposed to 12 percent they might have to pay on the open market.”

    “Yes, it’s unseemly that green cards can be acquired so cheaply. And I say cheaply, because remember, investors are not giving up $500,000; they’re just parking it for five years or so, and the major cost is foregone interest and fees.”

    “The Government Accountability Office this year concluded that the agency overseeing EB-5, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, could not validly analyze job creation. After all, projects financed through regional centers don’t require a headcount of employees. An economist’s report, which calculates not only direct jobs, but also indirect and induced jobs caused by spending, can suffice.”

    “One of the oddities about the EB-5 program is that the U.S. government is giving out the green cards, but the entrepreneur who puts together the investment gets the money. This scheme seems inefficient and open to corruption.”

    “EB-5 represents “corporate welfare” for certain businesses.”

    “In a modest reform, the new legislation mandates that one of the 10 required jobs be a direct job, validated with a head count.

    “So the EB-5 industry will still benefit from rules that allow them to credit immigrant investors for jobs created by the entire pot of money.”

    “In other words, the immigrant investors got credit for jobs financed by public subsidies and government-authorized tax-free bonds, funding that was already in place, not leveraged by the EB-5 investment.”

    https://www.pbs.org/newshour/economy/column-whats-really-at-stake-in-the-eb-5-investor-visa-overhaul-honesty

    We have to Wake Up to the reality that this is happening all over Hawai`i — not not only through the Coco Palms Hyatt Resort developers, but Everywhere!

    Please support the Hawaiians in their fight to protect their homelands from big developers who are using opaque foreign investment `loans’ to develop their lands and reroute Hawaii’s natural water systems.


  8. Paid2Talk January 31, 2018 8:56 pm Reply

    Copy and Paste shows zero intelligence


  9. lupe February 3, 2018 5:53 am Reply

    The corporate ethnic cleansing of Hawaiians and local people off the aina needs to stop. Government needs to protect the people. Hawaii is not Florida, Oregon, or Cali but these foreigners keep coming and trying to reshape our islands.


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