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People Smugglers Helped By Corrupt Kiwi Officials

Organised criminals who traded in human cargo were helped by corrupt New Zealand officials to help run their multimillion dollar operation police say. Chris Holm reports.

Three key players of the the Auckland-based “Sawar” syndicate were arrested yesterday after police made a series of early morning raids on more than 20 homes and businesses across Auckland.

Two men and a woman, from Iran and Afghanistan, are due to appear in the Waitakere District Court today on fraud charges. Police believe they may have helped over 1000 illegal immigrants enter New Zealand illegally over the last five years.

They are also believed to be involved in other illegal activities including distributing counterfeit money and drug smuggling.

Holding multiple fake identities themselves, the gang leaders are believed to have forced many refugees and immigrants into crime to pay debts for false travel documents. The immigrants who were often from war torn Middle Eastern and African countries were often threatened if they did not comply with the syndicate’s demands.

Some of the immigrants are believed to have been forced to smuggle drugs to pay back debts they owed the group.

Police are still searching for the machinery believed to have been used in counterfeiting money and travel documents.

They became aware of the group three months ago after investigating a stolen passport.

Police have not revealed which New Zealand government departments were involved in the corruption at this stage.

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