A sting operation by a rival cookery school lured a manager into putting $3000 into a foreign student's bank account to fool immigration officers, a court has been told.
Kingsland Institute NZ general manager Donald Han, who faces two charges of providing false or misleading information to Immigration NZ, set out to deceive immigration staff for personal gain, said prosecutor Lorraine MacDonald at Auckland District Court yesterday.
"The background to this trial is a private education industry in New Zealand which needs students and especially overseas students to fill its courses," she told jurors on the opening day of Han's trial.
They would hear claims that he had been set up in a sting operation by a rival cooking school, the North Shore International Academy (NSIA).
Some of the evidence and the methods used to gather it might sound "amateur detective", morally dubious or even entertaining.
"Some of you may be thinking this doesn't sound very serious."
But the charges were important because the principle at stake was the integrity of New Zealand's visa system and ensuring a level playing field for all immigrants who applied to enter the country, she said.
Ms MacDonald said Han filed false and misleading information about two students.
The first was Nitin Kumar from India, who in October 2009 asked to enrol in Kingsland's Panmure-based cookery course even though he had already signed up with the North Shore International Academy, and did not have enough money to pay the fees.
A Kingsland staff member, Nuresh Kumar, took him across the road to the National Bank, where Nitin opened a bank account and put in $200 of his own money and a further $10,000 given to him by Nuresh.
The two men printed off a bank statement recording the $10,200 account balance, to satisfy Immigration NZ requirements that students should have enough money to support themselves.
After waiting for a while, they withdrew all the money.
Nuresh kept the $10,000, plus the $200 from Nitin for the visa application fee.
Ms MacDonald said the application received by Immigration the next day contained a receipt, signed by Han, saying Nitin Kumar had paid $17,700 in course fees. In fact he had paid only $1000 at the time.
Mr Kumar later changed his mind, withdrew from the course and returned to NSIA.
He and NSIA's student relations manager, Roshan de Souza, who pretended to be Mr Kumar's cousin "Neil", returned to Kingsland to secretly record Han in two conversations.
Ms MacDonald said that in March 2010, NSIA organised another sting operation on its rival involving a Chinese student, Lan Luo. She applied to do the same cookery course but told Han she had only $7000 in her bank account.
He took her across the road and put $3000 into her bank account. Once the bank statement was produced for immigration purposes, most of the money was withdrawn and repaid to Han or used towards course fees.
Ms MacDonald said Han later claimed to investigators that Nitin Kumar and Lan Luo had been bribed by NSIA to make complaints against him.
But the prosecution case did not rely on their accounts alone, as it was supported by documentary evidence.