Testimony continues in Coco Palms saga

  • Bethany Freudenthal / The Garden Island

    A defendant in the Coco Palms civil case, Noa Mau-Espirito, finishes his testimony Tuesday at the state courthouse in Lihue.

LIHUE — Testimony continued Tuesday in the Coco Palms civil trial, with the defendants maintaining direct lineage to Hawaiian royalty and their right to occupy the land.

About 35 people watched the trial that was continued to Jan. 18.

Prior to the proceedings, Noa Mau-Espirito addressed District Court Judge Michael Soong with a complaint about an article written by Allan Parachini and published in The Garden Island newspaper Tuesday, stating a title search apparently proved he and co-defendant Kamu Hepa did not have a legal claim on the land.

He asked that Parachini be removed from the courtroom. The judge said Parachini had rights to be there and he could stay.

“This is ridiculing me for the ownership thing, bringing up the title search when I thought was made clear is not about ownership,” Mau-Espirito said. “If it’s about title search, why are they ridiculing me right now? I have the title search? I submitted the title search with errors the first day of trial.”

In his response, Soong assured Mau-Espirito that whatever’s in the paper or on social media will not be used in his determination about the case.

“My advice to you is, what I do is I don’t pay attention to what’s in the paper or social media,” Soong said, reminding Mau-Espirito of the First Amendment rights newspapers have.

Mau-Espirito asked Soong again, for clarification on what he is making a decision on.

“Are you making a decision on ownership or entitlement to possession, or both?”

“The issue is possession,” Soong said.

During cross-examination of Mau-Espirito, Hepa asked when he began taking on the responsibility of engaging in Hawaiian cultural practices and other things relevant and pertinent to who they are as a people.

Wayne Nasser, attorney for the plaintiffs, objected due to characterization.

Soong denied the objection.

Mau-Espirito said he was born into the culture and he was enrolled in Hawaiian immersion at 4 years old, based on his family’s history. While in school, he said they participated in chants, learning the legends and the moon cycles, farming and fishing with the moon cycle.

Hepa asked Mau-Espirito to further explain his experiences growing up, which Nasser objected to, because he said these experiences didn’t have anything to do with rights. Soong disagreed. He said Hepa was trying to establish background on native tenant rights.

“Their right to enter property in that measure to do certain things, but they’re not possessory rights,” Nasser argued.

“That may be,” Soong said, “but their defense is they’re on the property asserting native rights, so I’m going to allow the testimony.”

During Hepa’s cross-examination, Mau-Espirito described continual threats by employees of Tyler Greene. He said they have been firing shots and coming through the property.

He testified they called the police because of the harassment, and the police informed him they couldn’t help with the Coco Palms case, but they could help with the harassment.

Mau-Espirito testified he feared for his life.

After an instance in which the police were called, Mau-Espirito testified they were issued a letter stating to vacate the property within 48 hours. He said he took his own letter to Greene bearing maps, with information stating they were using the land for religious and cultural purposes.

At that time, Mau-Espirito said Greene asked him if they would leave. Mau-Espirito testified that he responded by asking Greene to give them a chance to go through the court system.

“You claim to be the crown alii of Wailua, is that what your claiming?” Nasser asked. “The claim is not from the Kingdom of Hawaii, but from this fellow from the Hawaiian Kingdom judiciary, but it’s not a pre-1893 award. It was sort of a grant that happened recently. Is that correct?”

Mau-Espirito said he has a certificate of award.

Once Mau-Espirito was finished with his testimony, Soong asked if they had any witnesses. Mau-Espirito called two witnesses, but they were barred from testifying. Nasser objected to the testimony stating that this is not expert witness testimony and it would be in line of opinion testimony and they didn’t have time to prepare for it.

Tyler Greene and Chad Waters, owners of Coco Palms Hui, have been trying to restore Coco Palms since 2012. The resort closed in 1992 after it was damaged by Hurricane Iniki.

By spring 2018 crews were expected to start Phase II, the renovation and reconstruction of Coco Palms.

The $175 million project would have 350 rooms, 12,000 square feet of retail space, three restaurants, leisure areas and a four-acre cultural center.

Hepa, Mau-Espirito, with others, moved onto the property over a year ago, and claim it belongs to them. They hope to preserve and restore the land, making it into a cultural and religious center for the Hawaiian people.

  1. Vegreef January 10, 2018 1:12 am Reply

    Three part test for asserting native rights. 1) is it traditional and customary; 2) are the practitioners native hawaiian; and 3) is the land undeveloped. What is interesting here is whether coco palms may have abandoned claims that this land is “developed” by letting it stay in dispraiser for so long.

  2. Charlie chimknee January 10, 2018 6:07 am Reply

    Jamestown, Virginia is to America (the first permanent English settlement in America) as the Wailua area and where Coco Palms is located, is to the Hawaiian Kingdom, culture, history, tradition, and Birthplace of Hawaii, and the first human settlement in the Hawaiian Islands.

    Wailua is the most revered and sacred spot in all of Hawaii Nei, and these 2 Hawaiian Chiefs, modern Alii, are protecting their, and really all of our heritage for all who came over a 1,000 years ago and for all who have been born here or who have come here ever since the first canoes landed at Wailua after crossing a huge part of the uncharted biggest ocean on earth, the Pacific Ocean and then and now call Hawaii their home.

    May Ke Akua bless these chiefs and their sovereign work they do for all of us in the Hawaiian Islands.

    For posterity’s sake this area lying in ruins for 25 years has shown itself in need to remain the core of Hawaiian Culture. Really those who are old enough can see that Coco Palms has had its time.

    Compared to over 1,000 years of Hawaiian settlement, the 40 + years as a hotel pales in importance as as to what Wailua means to these islands.

    Mankind has surely been blessed by these Hawaiian Islands just as these Islands have been blesses by the humans who have respected and revered and maintained this Aina, which clearly after 25 years the hotel industry has not, placing profit over the Birthplace Alina of this part of the Polynesian Triangle.

    The immense historical value of Wailua is greater than any hotel and should be considered first and foremost. And so far there appears to be no guarantee ($$$) that the current hotel people will ever accomplish the return of the Coco Palms.; it appears Pau.


    1. K January 11, 2018 3:05 pm Reply

      I CONCUR

  3. Fathom January 10, 2018 11:31 am Reply

    This Coco Palms Application — in the first link below — shows how $86 million (2/3’s of the budget) for the 12,000 sq. ft. Hyatt Resort was being raised through 172 wealthy Foreign Nationals in exchange for Green Cards and a path to U.S. Citizenship for them and their family —

    “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 read the entire document at this link —

    As to the job creation numbers, the document in this post states that the 12,000 sq.’ Hyatt Resort will create less than 665 permanent jobs.

    On page 3, the table shows that less than 4 permanent jobs expect to be created per $500,000 loan made to Coco Palms HUI, LLC by each of the 172 foreign investors.

    This represents 664.3 permanent jobs total, but it also misrepresents the realistic numbers since a good portion of the “Food and Beverage Services” jobs are not positions hired by their resort, but instead factored in as jobs thought to be created by resort employees eating at local restaurants.

    The problem with this future calculation is that most Kaua`i resort employees eat meals provided by the resort itself, usually in a break room near the kitchen. Therefore, the numbers used in this document are calculated in ways that appear to show higher job creation potential than this Hyatt Regency development will actually provide.

    These EB-5 visas have tremendous benefits for these foreign investors. LLC’s make it easy to hide their identities from the public, In exchange for the $500,000 loan, the EB-5 Visa provides the investors with a Green Card, and a 5 year path to U.S. Citizenship for them and members of their family.

    This Green Card allows them to do business, donate to political action committees (SuperPACs), and travel freely anywhere within the United States without the the same legal restrictions normally imposed on Foreign Nationals.
    Do you ever wonder why so many Foreign Nationals are investing in Hawaii’s development projects at $500,000+ each?

    This corporation says that investment in Hawaii provides wealthy investors (from foreign countries) with automatic Green Cards; for them and their immediate family. These EB-5 Visa programs also give these investors a direct path to U.S. citizenship in 5 year — as well as the ability to sponsor extended family members.

    This is a quote from their website (link below) —

    “Hawaii is an attractive location for investment. Hawaii’s mid-Pacific location provides residing companies with a presence in Asia- Pacific markets at a lower cost than major Asian capitals, while offering political stability, legal protection, and U.S. rights and freedoms.”


    Do you ever wonder why so many Foreign Nationals are investing in Hawaii’s development projects at $500,000+ each?

    This corporation says that investment in Hawaii provides wealthy investors (from foreign countries) with automatic Green Cards; for them and their immediate family. These EB-5 Visa programs also give these investors a direct path to U.S. citizenship in 5 year — as well as the ability to sponsor extended family members.

    This is a quote from their website (link below) —

    “Hawaii is an attractive location for investment. Hawaii’s mid-Pacific location provides residing companies with a presence in Asia- Pacific markets at a lower cost than major Asian capitals, while offering political stability, legal protection, and U.S. rights and freedoms.”


    According to United States and International law, this contested land is still legally owned by the descendants of the Hawaiians who filed documented legal title claims during the Great Mahele of 1848. These lands have been passed down to these descendants through generational bloodlines. This is an undisputed fact.


  4. Sunrise_blue January 10, 2018 6:04 pm Reply

    Not bad guy, there too.

    They call it a reference type or object.

    Heated arguments. Good to see other voices. Keeping up.

    Just me…!

  5. DevelopmentIsRegression January 10, 2018 6:05 pm Reply

    So Greene and his partner are gaming the immigration system to basically sell U.S. citizenship for a half million dollar investment in a hotel? This is just wrong.

  6. Bogus Claims January 10, 2018 9:45 pm Reply

    This big baby needs to grow up. Get an education and support the community. Right now what they are doing supports no sane Hawaiians. It’s a free for all needy people who “feel” entitled.

    1. Katya January 11, 2018 3:10 pm Reply

      I hope the land remains the natives … Corporation s have no business violating sacred lands and think it’s really OK …MAY THE SPIRITS AND SOULS OF THE HAWAIIAN PEOPLES HAUNT GREENE AND HIS COMRADES INVOLVED

  7. Manawai January 10, 2018 10:00 pm Reply

    I think the green card deal is great! New tax payers! It sure beats a bunch of illegal unskillled restroom cleaners.

  8. Fathom January 30, 2018 1:37 pm Reply

    Actually, many of these wealthy EB-5 Golden Visa investors who make these $500,000 ‘insured loans’ retain duel-citizenship with the U.S.; and the vast majority they pay in taxes (if any) goes to their foreign government, not to the United Sates or Hawaii.

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


    As this 2015 column explains —


    “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 t 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.”


    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.

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