NZ cops probe passport scam
Wellington - New Zealand police said on Thursday they were investigating a scam that has reportedly fleeced thousands of Pacific island immigrants who paid for fake residence visas.
About 4 000 people reportedly went to a meeting in Manurewa, near Auckland, on Wednesday night, some paying NZ$500 each for a worthless stamp in their passports.
Another 1 000 people went to a similar meeting in Hamilton, 130km south of Auckland, this week, Radio New Zealand reported.
Immigration officials estimate that about 17 000 illegal people, who have overstayed their visitor permits, are in the country and many of them are from Pacific countries like Samoa and Tonga, which have large resident populations in Auckland, New Zealand's largest city.
Reports said the visas were supposedly being issued by the Maori Party, but its co-leader Pita Sharples, who is Minister of Maori Affairs, said the issuers were crooks and warned victims to go to the police.
Detective Inspector Peter Devoy admitted in a Radio New Zealand interview that victims who were in the country illegally would be reluctant to come forward with evidence of the scam.
A Pacific island member of parliament, Su'a William Sio, said, "If anyone has paid money over to this rogue group, you have been fooled. It's a complete and utter sham.
"Any visa or residency stamps in your passport from this group are worthless and have no legal status whatsoever."