Labour official in immigration probe

July 22nd, 2009 at 9:57 am by David Farrar

The Herald report:

A Labour Party official is being investigated over immigration irregularities, just weeks after he helped Labour MP Su’a William Sio facilitate a meeting with Pacific Islanders duped in a fake-visa scam.

Immigration New Zealand confirmed it was investigating Semisi Faka’osikimuli, the secretary of the Labour Party’s Tongan branch, but would not disclose details or comment further while the investigation is going on.

There comes a point at which you wonder if certain problems are due to individuals, or are institutional. We have the current trial of Taito Philip Field. We have the unresolved issue of why Bill Liu was granted citizenship by Shane Jones despite official advice of his criminal record in China and offences in Australia. We have the Choudary immigration scam. There was also the dropping of list candidate Steven Ching over allegations of bribery. And now this case. Important to note only Choudary has been convicted of crimes.

The Herald understands the investigation centres around fake skilled employment offers to help immigrants get New Zealand work permits and residencies, but it is not clear how much money or how many people were involved.

No doubt details will emerge in time.

Mr Sio said he had known Mr Faka’osikimuli for two years and had worked with him in various capacities – most recently at a meeting with Pacific Islander victims of a fake residency stamps and visa scam on July 4, where Mr Faka’osikimuli chaired the Tongan group.

“He’s an active member of the Labour Party, and like many members of the local Pacific community, Semisi comes regularly to my electorate office in Mangere,” Mr Sio said.

The question is whether the alleged scam was being run out of Sio’s office, and whether that office was used for meetings. Regardless of the criminal allegations, commercial money making ventures should not be using MPs offices.

Han Jian, a former client of Mr Faka’osikimuli – whom he knows as James Semisi – said he decided to lodge a report to the police and Immigration, after receiving a letter from Immigration accusing him of fraud and submitting fake employment job offer documents, and for falsely claiming he had an offer of skilled employment from a company, TVP Computers.

“I was shocked, because I didn’t go for any interviews and didn’t even know I had any job offer, and I definitely did not submit anything to Immigration,” said Mr Han in Mandarin.

“After paying James about $14,000, all he said was to trust him and that is what I did. I thought with his involvement in the Labour Party, he will have good connections with Immigration.”

And this is what I mean about is there institutional issues. Regardless of the criminal issues against Field, it is very clear that his mate the Associate Minister was massively more likely to allow someone to gain residency here if Field acted on behalf of the migrant. There seem to be strong incentives that if Labour is in Government, you deal with people connected with Labour to gain residency or for Bill Liu citizenship.

Regardless of the change of Government, I would like to see much more transparency around MPs involvement in immigration issues. Maybe a quarterly report of the number of applications sponsored by MPs, and their sucess rates. If we had this years ago, it would have been obvious that Ministers were whitelighting almost all applications sponsored by Field.

According to Immigration documents, the application papers were submitted by Rosie Brown, JP, a community worker who works part-time out of Mr Sio’s electorate office.

Again, this may not be about individuals, but institutions.

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