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Five arrests in people-smuggling operation

Five arrests in people-smuggling operation

Christchurch Police have arrested five Chinese nationals in an operation targeting a people smuggling and passport and visa fraud ring.

The five men were arrested yesterday, and have appeared in the Christchurch District Court today. One has been remanded in custody, while the others were released on bail. All of those arrested are Chinese nationals living in Christchurch.

The operation has been carried out with the assistance of Immigration officials.

Detective Inspector Tom Fitzgerald says the charges relate to a group of Chinese nationals who obtained Australian visas to allow other individuals to travel from China to Australia.

Those arrested face a range of charges including immigration fraud, dishonestly using a document and making a false statement, and charges relating to people smuggling and being a party to people smuggling.

"Our investigations have revealed that between 2007 and 2010 some 17 fraudulent Australian visa applications were made by the two principal offenders," says Detective Inspector Fitzgerald.

"The principals have now been arrested, along with associates and other people who were involved in the operation.

"We believe all have been part of an organised criminal group which has been operating for some time."

Detective Inspector Fitzgerald says the offending was first brought to the attention of New Zealand authorities by the Australian High Commission in early 2011.

Immigration New Zealand’s Intelligence, Risk and Integrity General Manager Peter Elms says that people smuggling and fraud are taken very seriously by Immigration NZ.

“People smuggling is an international crime that strikes at the heart of border security. We will continue to work with the Police and our international partners to bring those involved to justice.”

“We have cooperated with the Police on this operation and the outcome should serve as a warning to any others who think they can exploit their position in New Zealand to circumvent the border controls of another country.”

“While this offending is targeting Australia there could be immigration consequences for those involved. Should those involved be convicted of this crime they will have their immigration status reviewed,” says Mr Elms.

Police enquiries into other related offending are continuing.


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