Immigration New Zealand says the conviction of a labor contractor for employing foreign workers to enable them to remain in New Zealand unlawfully shows its intolerance of immigration fraud.

Steve Stuart, INZ general manager responsible for Integrity, Risk and Intelligence, said that immigration fraud strikes at the integrity of the immigration system. ‘This conviction is a lesson to any contractor contemplating using unlawful labor,’ he added.

Nixon Nixon, who had been employed by Walton Services Ltd, admitted 11 charges of immigration fraud. He was fined $120 on each charge and sentenced to six months’ community detention and 140 hours of community service. His father and brother, directors of the company, were sentenced last year on similar charges.

Between 2004 and 2006, the defendants enabled numerous Indonesian nationals to support themselves while in the country unlawfully. They also exploited them financially, particularly in terms of making tax deductions that they kept for themselves, the court heard.

Stuart said it was also a warning to people who think they can work illegally in New Zealand. ‘People in the country unlawfully need people like Nixon and his co-offenders to enable them to stay, people who are prepared to defraud both their workers and taxpayers, and to deny work to New Zealanders by engaging illegal foreign labor,’ said Stuart.

‘Nixon’s offending occurred some years ago now, but his conviction is a lesson to everyone involved in the horticulture/viticulture sector that we investigate and prosecute activities that undermine the integrity of the immigration system, irrespective of time,’ he added.

Stuart explained that INZ’s Recognized Seasonal Employer scheme, which was introduced in 2007, has been critical to weeding out fraudulent contractors while also providing protections for workers in terms of wage rates, minimum earnings and deductions from wages.

‘The scheme enables recognized employers to bring in thousands of workers each year from certain Pacific nations to alleviate worker shortages in the horticultural sector, to the benefit of New Zealand and the RSE workers, their families and their countries,’ he said.

Meanwhile, officials are urging Tongan nationals to be wary of a scam involving the selling of visas. Stuart said that the Service has been alerted to visas being sold to Tongan nationals at a cost of $290 each.

‘This is a complete fraud and I can’t emphasize strongly enough that Immigration New Zealand is the only agency that can issue a visa to remain lawfully in New Zealand,’ he said.

‘I appeal in the strongest possible terms for people concerned about their immigration status to talk to us and not be taken in by such scams. We encourage people to report to the Police anyone involved in such a scam or if they think they may be a victim of such a scam,’ he added.