Five charged with people smuggling

August 21st, 2012

new Zealand authorities were alerted about an alleged people smuggling and visa and passport fraud ring operating out of Christchurch by the Australian High Commission.

Police yesterday arrested five Chinese nationals, living in Christchurch. they appeared in the Christchurch District Court today.

The operation has been carried out with the assistance of immigration officials.

Detective Inspector Tom Fitzgerald said it was alleged the group obtained Australian visas to allow other individuals to travel from China to Australia.

Those arrested face a range of charges including immigration fraud, dishonestly using a document and making a false statement, and charges relating to people smuggling and being a party to people smuggling.

“Our investigations have revealed that between 2007 and 2010 some 17 fraudulent Australian visa applications were made by the two principal offenders,” Detective Inspector Fitzgerald said.

“The principals have now been arrested, along with associates and other people who were involved in the operation.

“We believe all have been part of an organised criminal group which has been operating for some time.”

Detective Inspector Fitzgerald said the offending was first brought to the attention of new Zealand authorities by the Australian High Commission in early 2011.

Immigration new Zealand’s Intelligence, Risk and Integrity General Manager Peter Elms said  that people smuggling and fraud are taken very seriously by Immigration NZ.

“People smuggling is an international crime that strikes at the heart of border security.  We will continue to work with the police and our international partners to bring those involved to justice.”

“We have cooperated with the police on this operation and the outcome should serve as a warning to any others who think they can exploit their position in new Zealand to circumvent the border controls of another country.”

“While this offending is targeting Australia there could be immigration consequences for those involved.  Should those involved be convicted of this crime they will have their immigration status reviewed,” Elms said.

POLICE OPPOSE BAIL

Police opposed bail for all five men when they came before Judge John Strettell in Christchurch District Court today.

Police prosecutor David Rusbatch said there were concerns that the group was a flight risk because of the fraudulent passport offences alleged against them.

He said the arrests were the culmination of lengthy police investigations with allegations of criminal syndicates operating in Auckland and Christchurch.

The police allege that they travelled to Australia, reported their passports missing and then applied for temporary documents to return to new Zealand. in the meantime their passports were used to allow unauthorised migrants to enter Australia.

Defence counsel Gerald Lascelles said he represented four of the accused and they were long-term residents of new Zealand, some with businesses, some married, and at least one of them a new Zealand citizen.

He said there was no major people smuggling operation, as the police suggested.

“Police put this into the ‘Dotcom’ category and really overstepped the mark.”

Judge Strettell granted bail to the four facing charges involving one allegation of this type of offending, but refused bail to the one man, Yu Ren Lin, who faces a total of 23 charges.

The four on bail were remanded to reappear at the Nga Hau e Wha marae on August 15 and Lin, who remains in custody, will be due to appear at the Court House on August 16.

Lin, a 37-year-old company director from Redwood, faced 23 charges.

These include dishonestly using applications for Australian transit visas, arranging for an unauthorised migrant to enter Australia, giving someone a passport knowing that they intended to sell it, and making a false statement about the loss of a passport.

Jia Ma, 35, of Waltham, a commercial cleaner, is charged with dishonestly using an application for an Australian transit visa and arranging for an unauthorised migrant to enter Australia.

Le Tan, a 28-year-old courier, of Riccarton, is charged with making a false statement, passing on a passport knowing that it would be sold, dishonestly using an application for an Australia transit visa, and unlawful possession of a rifle.

Hao Tan, a 34-year-old retailer, from Halswell, is charged with a passport offence, dishonestly using a transit visa application, making a false statement about a lost passport, and arranging for an unauthorised migrant to enter Australia.

Lin Sang, a 29-year-old shop manager, from Riccarton, faces charges of arranging for an unauthorised migrant to enter Australia and dishonestly using a transit visa application.

– © Fairfax NZ News

Five charged with people smuggling

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