17 Jul 2008

Same agent may have scammed Indian pilgrims

7:46 am on 17 July 2008

Indian pilgrims who have run off in an attempt to make New Zealand their home illegally could all have been scammed by the same travel agent in New Delhi.

It is understood some of the 39 pilgrims paid up to $NZ17,000 to a middleman in India, for what they thought would be visas to stay in New Zealand.

Instead, the pilgrims were given 30-day visas, allowing them to stop off on their way to World Youth Day in Australia.

Three, who are hiding out in Tauranga, are to meet with immigration officers on Thursday.

An Auckland Justice of the Peace, Daljit Singh, who has been liaising with them, hopes the meeting will reveal more about the travel agent involved.

The Sikh Association says immigration scams within New Zealand's Indian community are common and are always highly organised.

Spokesperson Verpal Singh says there is probably also a local contact getting a cut of the money.

He says the scammers cover their tracks well, and the contact will try and find work for the absconders.