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Man jailed after Pacific Island overstayers speak out

Hakaoro Hakaoro was jailed for 20 months for providing immigration advice without a licence at Manukau District Court today (22 January 2014).

The 54-year-old pleaded guilty to six counts of providing immigration advice without a licence and one count of holding himself out as an immigration adviser at an earlier hearing in October 2013.

The Immigration Advisers Authority (the Authority), which brought the successful prosecution, found Mr Hakaoro had received more than $13,000 from six Tongan nationals who were trying to obtain lawful immigration status for themselves or relatives. The migrants eventually spoke out after they discovered Mr Hakaoro had carried out little or no immigration work on their applications.

The court heard Mr Hakaoro, a Cook Island national with New Zealand citizenship, had talked three families into paying increasing amounts of money by making several false claims.

Mr Hakaoro offered to help one couple become permanent residents around November 2009. He told them he could assist them even though they were ‘overstayers’ as he knew all the right people.

Mr Hakaoro asked for $3,000 to assist them with their application and $3,000 to provide job offers. Later he also asked to borrow a further$2,000 to pay for his immigration adviser licence.

Anyone giving New Zealand immigration advice, whether onshore or offshore, must be licensed by the Authority, unless exempt. Exempt people include New Zealand lawyers.

Less than six months later, the couple were contacted by Immigration New Zealand (INZ) and informed they had to leave New Zealand. No visa applications had been submitted.

In 2010, Mr Hakaoro offered to help a woman, her mother and her husband. The three paid $3,750 and were asked for an additional $3,000 for Mr Hakaoro to travel to Tonga to obtain police records and check their status with INZ.

When the woman became unhappy with Mr Hakaoro and her son tried to intervene, Mr Hakaoro threatened to call INZ and expose the family’s unlawful status.

Mr Hakaoro told another couple that he had worked for INZ and could get visas for them and members of their family.

The couple’s daughter took out a loan to pay Mr Hakaoro’s fees only to find out from INZ that no visa applications had been submitted for their family.

Judge Eddie Paul said: "Your victims were vulnerable people, anxious to secure their status in this country. One can hardly think of a more vulnerable person than one in a foreign land being offered an opportunity to remain in that foreign land when the reality was that offer was unlawful and delivered in a deceitful way."

“Home detention is not appropriate. It would send the wrong message to the South Auckland community that persons like you can offend and return to the community.”

Mr Hakaoro was ordered to repay $5,000 to his victims at the rate of $20 per week upon release.

Registrar of Immigration Advisers, Barry Smedts, said: “This is a great result for the Pacific community. This case demonstrates that anyone who has had poor immigration advice can turn to the Immigration Advisers Authority for help. We do not deport people and we are separate from INZ.

“Several people affected by this case were in New Zealand unlawfully. It’s thanks to them having the courage to speak out and work with our investigators that we were able to bring this man to justice.”

The Authority recommends anyone seeking an immigration adviser or immigration consultant to first search their register of licensed immigration advisers at www.iaa.govt.nz.

ENDS

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