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Licensed immigration adviser loses licence after exploiting vulnerable woman

Media release

4 June 2013

A licensed immigration adviser who exploited a vulnerable woman has had his licence cancelled today (4 June 2013).

Hakaoro Hakaoro was asked for help by the woman who was in New Zealand unlawfully in August 2011.

She had exhausted every potential avenue before being apprehended by Immigration New Zealand (INZ) and told to leave the country voluntarily.

When she approached Mr Hakaoro for help, he advised her to apply for a visa using INZ’s discretionary powers under section 61 of the Immigration Act 2009.

He charged her $3,000 but did not lodge her application.

The Immigration Advisers Complaints and Disciplinary Tribunal found Mr Hakaoro had charged grossly excessive fees. He knew he could do nothing to assist the woman but took her money intending to keep it once she was deported.

The Tribunal considered whether Mr Hakaoro could be rehabilitated but, in light of the adviser’s unwillingness to change and significant ethnic bigotry, decided he must be removed from the profession as soon as possible to remove the risk of exposing the public to likely further exploitation.

The Tribunal chair said: “The offending was at the highest end of the scale, it involved egregious abuse of a vulnerable client...His disgraceful disparagement of people based on their ethnicity satisfied me Mr Hakaoro is utterly unfit to be a licensed immigration adviser.”

Mr Hakaoro was ordered to pay a penalty of $8,000, refund fees of $3,000 and prevented from holding a licence for two years.

The Immigration Advisers Authority, which took the woman’s complaint, operates separately from INZ and has no power to deport people in the country unlawfully.

Registrar of Immigration Advisers Barry Smedts said: “The majority of licensed immigration advisers do good work, are honest and upstanding people. Unfortunately, here we have one who has completely abused his power and taken advantage of a vulnerable woman in the Pacific community at a time when she needed help the most.
“His conduct has been appalling and, as a result, Immigration New Zealand will no longer accept applications from him or have any dealings with him.”

ENDS

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.

Under the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act 2007 only those people who are licensed or exempt are able to give immigration advice about New Zealand. A person who provides immigration advice without being licensed or exempt commits an offence.