28 Jan 2016

Cost of NZ's first people trafficking trial revealed

6:41 am on 28 January 2016

New Zealand's first people trafficking trial cost Immigration New Zealand $125,335 to bring to court.

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. The brothers were cleared of the trafficking charges they faced. Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

Figures released to RNZ News show the biggest portion of the cost of the six-week trial in the High Court in Nelson went on interpreters, an investigator and staff overtime, at $43,000.

The trial involved three men charged with arranging the entry of people to this country by deception, or trafficking, with the focus on the arrival in the country of 18 Indian citizens around seven years ago.

Brothers Jaswinder Singh Sangha and Satnam Singh were found not guilty on the trafficking charges, but Jaswinder and another man were found guilty of making false statements to Immigration New Zealand - and were due to be sentenced in Nelson on Friday.

An initial investigation in which four Immigration New Zealand officials went to India cost $20,000 and a further $15,000 was spent on travel associated with search warrants and arrests.

An international pre-trial briefing involving two of the department's staff cost $12,000 in travel and accommodation.

A further $15,000 was spent on flights to Nelson for 11 staff including interpreters, investigators and court support workers involved in the trial, and $12,000 was spent accommodating staff in Nelson for the six-week trial.

Almost $7000 was spent on meals and car hire.

Immigration New Zealand's general manager of compliance, risk and intelligence services, Peter Devoy, said costs did not include staff time spent investigating the case, and that costs were also incurred by Crown Law.

Information released by Crown Law shows the Tasman Crown Solicitor has so far reported a total of 1148 hours spent on the case, but the actual cost in dollar terms was not available.

Crown counsel Saar Cohen-Ronen said, since 2013, Crown solicitors had operated in a bulk-funded environment and did not invoice for individual cases.

It was therefore "not possible to identify and quantify the cost to Crown Law of any one case in particular", Ms Cohen-Ronen said.

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