David Fisher

Senior reporter of the year

Fight to oust $350k fraudster

Immigration NZ takes action to send Auckland council thief back to S. Africa.

Hendrik Jooste.
Hendrik Jooste.

A fraudster who stole $350,000 of ratepayer money faces court action to have a deportation order enforced so he can be sent back to South Africa.

Attempts to deport Hendrik Pieter Jooste failed after he told a tribunal hearing deportation appeals it would be unfair on his children, who would stay in New Zealand.

The former Auckland City Council employee won a four-year stay on being deported.

The delayed deportation has been challenged by Immigration NZ, which has won Court of Appeal approval to fight the delay and have him returned to South Africa.

The deportation stems from a three-year fraud in which $350,000 of ratepayer money was taken to bolster a lifestyle which was beyond the means of a young immigrant family.

A recently qualified lawyer, Jooste moved to New Zealand in 2005 with his wife and daughter, 3.

Court documents show between 2005 and 2008 he siphoned money off Auckland City Council tenancies into his own property company. Court records show Jooste manipulated start and end dates of tenancies in council records, diverting rental funds falling outside those dates into his own company.

He also listed properties as vacant when they were tenanted, diverting the rent paid into his company.

Jooste told the Herald last night he was shocked by the court's decision and was seeking legal advice.

"Look, it was shocking to me. I'm going through the process but I don't want to say too much."

He said he wanted to stay in New Zealand, a place he considered home.

"I've got children that are doing well at school, you know, their development is excellent, so much opportunity. [And the] same for me."

Jooste said there was no question what he did was wrong. However, he didn't bring much money with him to New Zealand.

"When I came to New Zealand I didn't bring a lot of funds over and I was at the point where financially I committed too much. It's wrong, there's no question."

Former Auckland City chief executive David Rankin - currently running Auckland Council's property management company - said theft from council funds affected all ratepayers.

Jooste quit his council job in 2008 and was arrested a year later after a tenant raised concerns with the council. He pleaded guilty to the fraud, claiming some money was taken to meet medical bills for a son born in 2007, and repaid $100,000 before being jailed for three years.

Jooste was paroled after 13 months and served with the deportation order which he has since challenged.

The Immigration and Protection Tribunal had granted a four-year stay on deportation in November 2012 after finding Jooste was a "loving and devoted father who is committed to playing a strong parental role in the lives of his children".

It found deportation would prevent any further close relationship with the children, currently managed through a parenting agreement with his former wife.

Rejecting deportation, it found staying in New Zealand "would be in the best interests of the children". It also found the fraud for which Jooste was sent to prison was not "so great that it would adversely affect an ongoing relationship between father and child".

Immigration NZ tried to lodge an appeal at the High Court, which refused permission. It then sought and received permission from the Court of Appeal.

Jooste is listed as collecting the unemployment benefit.

- NZ Herald

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