John Weekes is an NZME News Service reporter based in Wellington.

NZ's first human trafficking trial

A court today was told the human-trafficking trial could start as late as 2016. Photo / Thinkstock
A court today was told the human-trafficking trial could start as late as 2016. Photo / Thinkstock

A trial for the first people in New Zealand to be charged with people-trafficking will involve witnesses flying from India to give evidence.

A court today was told the human-trafficking trial could start as late as 2016.

Satnam Singh and Jaswinder Singh Sangha face charges under the Crimes Act of arranging the entry of people into New Zealand by coercion or deception.

Sangha was also charged under the Immigration Act with providing false information.

He and a third man, who has name suppression, also faced charges of knowingly producing a false or misleading document to an immigration, visa, or refugee status officer.

In September, all three men pleaded not guilty in Nelson District Court.

The High Court at Wellington today heard that any trial for the men was at least 11 months away.

At a trial review today, Justice Simon France said a trial was originally set for November 23. But if this went ahead, the trial's conclusion before the 2015 Christmas break was not guaranteed.

By audio-visual link, Emma Riddell and Mark O'Donoghue from Nelson appeared for the Crown.

Ms Riddell said some of the witnesses who would give evidence in a trial would have to travel from India.

Singh and Sangha were arrested near Motueka on August 28, accused of arranging by deception the entry of 18 Indian nationals into New Zealand. The charge had a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment and a fine of $500,000.

Sangha was also charged, along with the third man arrested in Auckland the same day, over allegedly false refugee claims made for the 18 men. That charge carries a penalty of up to seven years in jail and/or a fine of up to $100,000.

At the time of the arrest, Immigration New Zealand alleged the 18 Indian men were brought to New Zealand to work in the horticulture industry in 2008-09.

The trafficking charges were the first to be laid in New Zealand, Immigration New Zealand's Peter Devoy said at the time.

Justice France said the trial was likely to start on November 2 next year but that would not be confirmed until a callover hearing, which he arranged for February 23.

- NZME.

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