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Tuvaluan ‘prince’ ordered to repay victims

Media release

9 November 2012

An unlicensed immigration adviser has been ordered to provide refunds after collecting more than $5,000 running an unlawful immigration business.

Kauapi Lutelu, also known as Prince Pastor Kauapi Lutelu Salanoa of Mangere, pleaded guilty to six charges at Auckland District Court on 27 September 2012.

These included:

His Honour Judge Field determined a term of imprisonment would ordinarily be the appropriate starting point for offending of this type. However, in view of personal circumstances and severe mental illness, a sentence of 14 days community detention was imposed in addition to orders giving refunds to four victims.

In January 2010 a Radio 531PI announcement said Mr Lutelu had been given a ‘quota’ from the Minister of Immigration for 250 Fiji nationals who required work permits or permanent residency.

The announcement said an application for the quota would only be considered if accompanied by a $50 cover charge.

The following month, Mr Lutelu wrote to those who registered for the ‘quota’ stating he would be charging $1,000 for a work permit and $2,000 for permanent residence.

In May 2010, a visa application filed by Mr Lutelu was returned as Immigration New Zealand (INZ) will not accept applications from unlicensed advisers.

Mr Lutelu applied for a licence six times but was declined by the Immigration Advisers Authority and repeatedly warned not to provide immigration advice.

Barry Smedts, Registrar of Immigration Advisers reminded people that they can avoid falling foul of people like Lutelu.

He said: “Before handing over any money, check the online public Register of Licensed Immigration Advisers and read our Immigration Advice Consumer Guide. If you don’t have internet access, call us and we will check the register for you and post you a copy of the Guide. This will tell you where to go for advice and how to report illegal activity.

“There is no real way of knowing how many people paid money to Mr Lutelu because people in New Zealand unlawfully may be afraid to contact us. However, I believe the majority have already come forward as they know the Immigration Advisers Authority has no power to deport them.”

Under the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act 2007, anyone providing immigration advice must be licensed or exempt from the requirement to be licensed.

Licensed immigration advisers are provided with a certificate and wallet card and listed on the Authority’s online register. The only people who can give immigration advice without a licence are those who are exempt under the Act, including lawyers, and those working at Community Law Centres or Citizens Advice Bureaux.

You can call the Immigration Advisers Authority, on freephone 0508 422 422 from New Zealand or +64 9 925 3838 from overseas to find out more.

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.