24 Jun 2009

No amnesty for victims of alleged passport scam

10:03 pm on 24 June 2009

The Government says it will not give amnesty to overstayers to help police investigate an alleged passport scam.

Gerard Otimi appeared in Manukau District Court on Wednesday facing three charges from five complainants of taking money by deception by issuing fake visas. He was remanded on bail until 5 August.

Police have urged further potential complainants to come forward.

Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman says amnesties will not be considered. He says they never decrease the overall number of overstayers over time.

Dr Coleman says there has been no approach from police about amnesties.

Police Commissioner Howard Broad on Wednesday defended the time police took to arrest Mr Otimi.

Mr Broad told a Parliament's law and order select committee that people's unwillingness to come forward slowed the gathering of evidence. He said he did not know if officers consulted with iwi before making the arrest.

Meanwhile, Mr Otimi may face further legal action taken by the Hapu Party, which Mr Otimi claimed to be representing when he spoke to overstayers.

Ngapuhi academic and Hapu Party leader David Rankin says the party's solicitors are considering court action.

Visa scheme 'temporarily on hold'

Supporters of Mr Otimi say they will continue to offer overstayers residence papers in the name of a hapu.

About 20 supporters gathered for Mr Otimi's court appearance, including people who had purchased the residence papers.

Mr Otimi's daughter, Joanne Otimi, says the visa scheme is temporarily on hold because of the charges, but there are no plans to end it permanently.

However, she says anyone who is unhappy with the scheme will be given their money back.

Ms Otimi says the case highlights a big human rights problem in New Zealand and the hapu should have the right to issue the visas.

Other supporters say it is Mr Otimi's sovereign right to issue the visas and the court has no jurisdiction over him.