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Immigration scam victims urged to come forward

Published: 1:04PM Thursday June 14, 2012 Source: ONE News

Tongans caught up in a residency scam need to come forward for there to be a case against the fraud, the Immigration Advisors Authority says.

The Tongan community is calling for Government action following a ONE News exclusive last night that revealed Auckland man Fetongi Malupo sold fake New Zealand residencies to Tongans.

Registrar of Immigration Advisors Barry Smedt said the authority manages complaints and investigates allegations of unlicensed activity.

"We rely on people coming forward to tell their story," he said.

"To make a case against anyone, we need witnesses - people who are willing to stand up in court and say 'this person took my money and promised me a visa'."

Tongan community leader Salotay Lilo told TV ONE's Breakfast this morning that overstayers do not report scams out of fear of being deported.

"These scammers are targeting vulnerable people," she said.

Lilo said last night she thought between 3000 to 5000 people had been affected by the scam.

Smedt said the authority was established to protect people getting immigration advice, and a person's immigration status was "not a concern" for them.

"If a person is unlawfully in New Zealand and is afraid to contact us because we might share their information with Immigration New Zealand, I want to assure them that this will not happen."

Malupo targeted kava groups and South Auckland churches, collecting passports and up to $300 for the fake residencies.

Immigration New Zealand confirmed the contract was a scam and it was investigating the case.

"If you don't have a visa from Immigration New Zealand, it's not a legitimate one and if it has been secured by paying money it's just a scam," said Immigration New Zealand regional manager Pacific/Americas Alan Barry.

The Auckland man told ONE News last night he only collected the money and passports and then gave them on to fellow Tongan Kolini Tatafu.

In 2004 ONE News uncovered a pensioner housing scam Tatafu was running. ONE News was unable to contact Tatafu yesterday.

Malupo is now promising to return money and passports to anyone who wants them.

Smedt said the best thing to avoid being scammed is to research before paying for immigration advice.

He said if someone decides they want to hire a licensed immigration advisor, go to www.iaa.govt.nz http://www.iaa.govt.nz for a list of current advisers.

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