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Customs Warns Of Illegal Migration Scam

The New Zealand Customs Service believes it has foiled an attempted illegal migration scam involving bogus ship movements, and it’s reminding the shipping industry to be on the alert.

Customs National Manager Air and Marine John Secker says in recent days four people have abandoned plans to come here from Asia posing as ship crew.

He says Customs became suspicious about a ship that was scheduled to arrive in New Zealand and pick up four crew members who were to fly in from Bangladesh.

“Details about the cargo the ship was supposed to be carrying, and unusual plans for unloading, put us on alert. Further inquiries could not find any evidence that the ship was actually on its way to New Zealand, even though a berth had been booked for it at the Port of Auckland.

“We began investigating the company in Bangladesh that was reportedly organising the vessel’s voyage, only to discover the company did not exist.

“At around the same time, the four tickets that had been booked for the supposed crew members were cancelled.”

John Secker believes the organisers of the trip got cold feet when they heard Customs was investigating.

The Immigration Service issues special visas for crew members coming here to meet their ships, and requires a letter of guarantee from a shipping agent.

“In this case we believe there was a deliberate attempt to fraudulently obtain letters of guarantee by supplying bogus information about ship movements.

“We have had excellent information and cooperation from the port company, shipping agents and others in the industry and that has been crucial in foiling this attempt,” says Mr Secker.

The Shipping Agents Association Secretary Bruce Heather says it’s aware of other attempts to gain visas based on false details about ship movements.

“We’re not aware of an attempt being successful in New Zealand, but the scam has worked overseas. Every couple of months our members tell us they’ve had a request to arrange visas for the crew of a ship that doesn’t exist or is on the other side of the world.”

Bruce Heather says his association always informs the authorities.

John Secker says Customs knows the New Zealand shipping industry does not want to become unwitting participants in illegal activities.

“Any information they can supply us with will be treated in confidence and followed up,” says Mr Secker.


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