Man sentenced, to be deported for impersonating immigration officer

1:35 pm on 1 December 2019

A Fijian man who impersonated an immigration officer and fleeced four people of more than $300,000 will be deported.

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Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Vincent Smith was jailed for two years and eight months. The judge said Smith had played on the desperation of vulnerable people whose victim impact statements were "sad and chilling".

One of the victims was a student nurse and another man was deported after following Smith's advice.

The judge said he had not shown genuine remorse and it was unlikely he would pay back the money.

Smith, who has two aliases, pleaded guilty to obtaining by deception and impersonating an immigration officer, saying he had a gambling addiction.

He appealed to the immigration and protection tribunal against his deportation.

He claimed he would be at risk of death as a gay Muslim man returning to Fiji and feared retribution from the families he had scammed.

His mother's health issues would make it impossible for her to visit him and he feared he would not receive help for his own medical problems.

But a clinical psychologist noted professionals' concerns that he "exaggerated his health issues and engaged in deliberate behaviours to distort medical tests, or to bring on and worsen symptoms".

"The psychological data gathered within the current assessment confirmed his propensity towards creating an exaggerated and negative impression in order to achieve secondary gain."

The 31-year-old set up an automotive repairs and cleaning services business after moving from Australia.

The immigration minister's lawyer told the tribunal that as an Australian resident, Smith could choose to live there.

The tribunal upheld the deportation: "Weighing the appellant's offending against his humanitarian circumstances, the tribunal is not satisfied that it is unjust or unduly harsh for him to be deported from New Zealand."

He will be deported after he leaves prison, the parole board having rejected his release in August.

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