11 Nov 2015

Complainant may have known letter contents, court told

10:05 pm on 11 November 2015

The lawyer defending one of two men accused of human trafficking has cast doubt on a witness' claims he didn't know what was written in a letter to Immigration New Zealand.

Jaswinder Singh (right) and Satnam Singh (second from left), with two interpreters, at the High Court in Nelson on Monday 9 November.

In the High Court in Nelson (from left): an interpreter, Satnam Singh, another interpreter and Jaswinder Singh Sangha. Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

Sam Wimsett, the lawyer for Jaswinder Singh Sangha, suggested it was doubtful that Raghbir Singh Kaler would have signed a letter seeking refugee status in New Zealand without knowing what was in it.

Mr Singh Kaler is the second witness to take the stand in the High Court trial in Nelson, which was adjourned several times this morning for in-chambers discussions on legal matters.

A longer than usual lunchbreak was also scheduled to allow many in the court to attend Diwali festivities.

The scheduled six-week trial is now in its third day, and only the second witness of 25 had given evidence by Wednesday afternoon.

Former immigration official Wiebe Herder was the first in the witness stand. His evidence was given in English and then translated to Punjabi, and extended into the afternoon of the second day of the trial.

The Crown's questions to Mr Singh Kaler are being translated into Punjabi, and his answers in Punjabi are then being translated into English.

The trial is before a jury of of four men and eight women, who are hearing charges laid by Immigration New Zealand against three men. The case is related to the arrival in the country of 18 Indian citizens some seven years ago.

Mr Singh Sangha, along with his brother Satnam Singh, is defending charges of trafficking.

Mr Singh Sangha is jointly charged with a third man, whose name is suppressed, of providing false or misleading information to an immigration officer.

The Crown is arguing the case was based on arrangements to bring the 18 people from India by deception, and stories were fabricated for the sake of large amounts of money.

The defence is arguing all the allegations are false, and there was misunderstanding around work visas and residency issues.

The court heard yesterday how Mr Singh Kaler arrived on a work permit, after applying through the office in India run by one of the accused.

Once he arrived in New Zealand, after borrowing a significant amount of money from his family to pay the approximately $30,000 fee, it became quickly evident that the situation was not what he and others expected.

Mr Singh Kaler told the court he wanted to earn money to start paying back his family, but was eventually told there was no work and he might have to return to India. The only other option was to apply for a refugee visa.

Mr Wimsett challenged him over his apparent vagueness around information linked to his status in New Zealand, and why it was that he would have signed an official letter not written by him.

The trial continues.