Immigration adviser refuses to pay fine

File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

An immigration adviser fined after the industry's watchdog determined he ripped off a vulnerable woman and made disparaging comments about people based on their ethnicity says he will not pay up and wants the decision overturned.

The Immigration Advisers Complaints and Disciplinary Tribunal found that Hakaoro Hakaoro charged a woman grossly excessive fees when he knew there was nothing he could do to help her.

He was ordered to refund the $3000 paid by the woman, pay a penalty of $8000 and he was banned from holding a licence for two years.

Mr Hakaoro contacted APNZ today to give his side of the story.

He said the woman had told him that she had siblings in New Zealand who were prepared to sponsor her, which would make her eligible for residency.

"That was my understanding, that's what she told me.''

He said he spent three full days on the case - interviewing, cross referencing information, researching and drafting a written submission - but the woman never returned to his office.

She laid a complaint with lawyers, but was deported before the case went to the tribunal.

Mr Hakaoro said the investigation was conducted without the woman's consent, and he had been prevented from calling witnesses.

"They just took the word of a lawyer who had not been authorised by the client. To make matters worse, under the legislation I can't even appeal it.''

Nonetheless, he said he would seek a way to get the decision overturned, and would not be refunding the woman or paying the fine.

"To do so is to concede that they got it right.''

The tribunal also identified unprofessional conduct in relation to Mr Hakaoro's response to the complaint, concerning him disparaging people of a particular nationality.

"Hakaoro furthered his denigration of people of a particular nationality, justifying his comments with claims such as 'over 95 per cent of my [clients of that nationality] have misled me and Immigration New Zealand','' the tribunal's decision said.

Mr Hakaoro stood by his comments, and said people of that ethnicity had a "habit'' of misleading immigration advisers.

"It was because of my experience of clients misleading me and Immigration New Zealand. The statistics are available here in writing.

"There is nothing wrong, in my opinion, to bring these matters to the authorities.''

Registrar of Immigration Advisers Barry Smedts said Mr Hakaoro's conduct was "appalling'' and Immigration New Zealand would no longer have any dealings with him.

"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.''

- APNZ

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