29 Jul 2011

18 months jail for passport scam

5:01 pm on 29 July 2011

A Maori activist who ran a passport scam targeting Pacific Island overstayers has been sentenced to 18 months in jail.

Gerard Otimi was earlier this year found guilty of 38 charges of altering a document and was sentenced at the Manukau District Court on Friday.

In 2009, Otimi sold false visas in the name of a hapu or Maori subtribe for $500 each to Pacific Islanders who wanted to stay in New Zealand.

Judge Gus Andree-Wiltens told him he had made a deliberate attempt to deceive people who had limited English language abilities, and the theme of the victim impact statements is one of disappointment and loss.

The judge said that because of Otimi's failure to co-operate with probation services he could not be given home detention, though he has leave to apply for it.

Otimi has previously been ordered to pay $12,500 in reparation to the victims of the scam.

At the start of his court appearance a supporter stood at the back of the court and told Judge Andree-Wiltens the court had no authority to sentence him.

He asked the judge to provide evidence the court has any authority to override the common law of the sovereign Maori nation. Judge Andree-Wiltens told him the questions he raised are outside his jurisdiction.