22 Aug 2016

People trafficking trial begins in Auckland

11:03 pm on 22 August 2016

A Fijian woman who the Crowns says was trafficked into New Zealand wanted to give her seven daughters a better life, a jury has been told.

Exterior of the High Court in Auckland

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Suliana Vetanivula gave evidence in the High Court in Auckland today at the trial of the man who is accused of exploiting her.

In the High Court in Auckland today Fijian national Faroz Ali admitted eight charges of helping people breach their visa conditions and 18 charges of not paying his employees the minimum wage.

He pleaded not guilty to a further 31 charges, including human trafficking.

Immigration New Zealand alleged he charged 16 people including Ms Vetanivula large sums of money to work in New Zealand.

It said he facilitated their unlawful entry into the country and employed them, or arranged for them to be employed, in breach of visa conditions.

The maximum penalty for people trafficking is 20 years in jail or a $500,000 fine.

Crown prosecutor Luke Clancy told the jury Mr Ali, his wife, and his sister in-law placed advertisements in a Fijian newspaper for workers to travel to New Zealand with the promise of good money and accommodation.

He said the 16 workers who applied for the jobs were scammed and when they arrived in New Zealand the conditions they worked under were not what had been promised.

"Mr Ali exploited this people for his own financial gain- for his greed," Mr Clancy told the court.

"When the workers arrived here they were met with over-crowded conditions, some without a bed."

He said the victims of Mr Ali were poor people living in difficult circumstances often with no experience of travelling or working overseas.

One of the workers Mr Ali was accused of organising to New Zealand was Ms Vetanivula.

She told the court she found an advert in the paper and went to Suva to meet with the travel agency which advertised it.

"I paid them $200 Fijian dollars - which is not much more than a weeks wages for my husband. I was then told I would have to pay a lodging fee of $258 and an admin fee of $300."

She told the court she had paid the money because she knew it would be worth it with the promise of earning $NZ17 an hour if she moved to New Zealand

"I wanted to provide a better life for my seven daughters and I worked out I could earn $NZ900 a week on $17 an hour."

Defence lawyer Peter Broad said Mr Ali was not in Fiji when the newspaper advert was published so he did simply not know what the workers had been promised.

More of the Fijian workers are expected to give evidence when the trial continues tomorrow.

The trial was set down for six weeks.