6 Oct 2014

Immigration fraud trial starts in capital

8:48 pm on 6 October 2014

A man accused of immigration fraud was misled by the recruitment company he used and did not profit from the deal, his lawyer has told the Wellington District Court.

The 65-year-old man, who has name suppression, is on trial in the Wellington District Court.

He man denies seven charges, including supplying false employment agreements, producing false information to an immigration officer and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Crown prosecutor Ian Murray said between 2010 and 2011, the man and a recruitment company applied to bring three chefs to New Zealand.

The two women and a man were told they would be paid $18 an hour and would work full-time for two years. However, full-time work at a restaurant never eventuated and they were never paid the rates they were promised.

Mr Murray told the jury it would hear testimony that the restaurant operated with only one chef and, while two of the chefs never worked in the restaurant, one worked there for a short period "as a cover" when it was clear Immigration New Zealand was investigating.

The man wrote letters terminating the employment contracts for two of the chefs but Mr Murray said they were designed to cover his tracks.

Mr Murray said the case revolved around immigration fraud; the man got cheap labour from China which could be exploited, while the recruitment agency collected large fees from its clients.

But the man's lawyer, Philip Mitchell, said his client used a number of employment consultants over the years and was not aware there was anything untoward going on.

Mr Mitchell said the directors of the recruitment company admitted involvement in an immigration scam a week ago.

There was no evidence his client received any money from the company, and one of the chefs it supplied was a bricklayer, he said.

Mr Mitchell said his client was an honest businessman, and he urged the jury to keep an open mind.

The Crown will call 13 witnesses, and the trial is expected to last for a week.