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Immigration Adviser ordered to pay $21,000

Media release

12 April 2012

An immigration adviser has been ordered to pay more than $21,000 after trying to exploit one client and giving inappropriate advice to another.

Rajesh Kumar, of Hannahraj Consultants Limited in Manukau, tried to demand an extra $1,000 from an Indian manager by withholding his passport and gave such poor advice to another Indian national that his client ended up being in New Zealand unlawfully.

In the first case, Kumar received $3,600 in cash to help an Indian manager secure a residence permit. However, when it became clear the application had been successful, Kumar demanded more money and retained his client’s passport knowing Immigration New Zealand would be unable to issue the permit until he released it.

It was only when the migrant complained to the Immigration Advisers Authority that Kumar released the passport.

It later transpired that Kumar had also faxed a demand for $500 to the manager’s work place intending to embarrass him and enlisted a debt collection agency which demanded additional fees and threatened the migrant with a poor credit rating if he failed to pay.

The Immigration Advisers Complaints and Disciplinary Tribunal chair described the actions as ‘beyond belief’.

Kumar blamed his client’s aunt for the absence of a receipt because: “an illiterate person may be considered as not sharp enough to ask for a receipt” and blamed his own mental health saying he: “lost his memory to the extent he cannot recognise his clients and he cannot distinguish between reality and imagination.”

The Tribunal chair refused to accept the adviser’s excuse, saying he: “wrote a coherent account of that claim and provided no independent support, medical or otherwise.”

The chair added: “I was left in no doubt from Mr Kumar’s attitude and actions, he thought his professional standing would allow him to exploit a client with impunity, and he systematically sought to do so in this case.

This factor makes the offending more serious and the penalty should reflect that.”

Kumar surrendered his licence, was ordered to pay compensation of $1,500, a penalty of $7,500 and prevented from reapplying for an immigration adviser licence for two years.

In a second case, Kumar was reprimanded for incompetence and unprofessional behaviour after giving poor advice that resulted in his client becoming unlawful.

Instead of following advice given by Immigration New Zealand, Kumar told his client to follow an alternative path to updating his work visa.

When his approach failed, the migrant was pushed into the position of being in New Zealand unlawfully and hired a lawyer to obtain the work permit and help lodge a complaint with the Immigration Advisers Authority.

In response, Kumar:

The Tribunal chair said: “It is a recurring theme of the adviser’s response to the complaint that his own understanding of immigration matters is superior to that of others; and reconsideration of a position he has taken is an affront to his dignity.

“Mr Kumar’s misconduct is largely a result of his wrong, and contemptuous views of the immigration regime he is required to work with.

“The personal denigration of a former client and their counsel as a response to a complaint is wholly unprofessional, and I regard that conduct as reprehensible.”

Kumar was ordered to pay compensation of $8,276 and a penalty of $4,000.

In total Kumar was ordered to pay $21,276 in penalties and compensation.

The Immigration Advisers Authority, which receives complaints about immigration consultants, urged consumers to visit its website www.iaa.govt.nz.

Registrar Barry Smedts said: “These cases demonstrate how important it is for consumers to do their homework on an immigration adviser. First and foremost, they should check if the person is licensed by using our online register. People using licensed immigration advisers are more likely to get their money back if things go wrong.

Secondly, consumers can read up on what to expect from an adviser with our consumer guide and finally, if they feel they have been mistreated they can complete our complaints form attaching as much supporting evidence as possible.”

To find out more, call the Authority on freephone 0508 422 422.

Notes to editor

The Immigration Advisers Authority was set up to promote and protect the interests of people receiving New Zealand immigration advice.

We do this by:

Under the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act 2007 anyone giving immigration advice must have a licence unless they are exempt. Exempt people include lawyers with a current New Zealand practising certificate and Citizens Advice Bureaux staff among others.

The Authority is independent of Immigration New Zealand and cannot give immigration advice or influence a visa application.