New Zealand's prisons contain more than 320 foreign citizens costing taxpayers more than $33.7 million a year, including two mystery men who were chased across Europe by Interpol.

The Herald can reveal that the duo were jailed after Kiwi authorities discovered a well-planned con at Immigration New Zealand's London office. They were each jailed for 18 months in mid-November and joined the other 323 foreigners currently populating New Zealand's prisons.

Although Corrections does not actively collect information about citizenship or the country of birth of prisoners taken into custody, it does ask them to identify ethnicity.

Data released to the Herald shows the number of people identifying as foreign citizens who were sentenced to serve time in New Zealand prisons last year is more than 160.

Advertisement

For the year to December, 162 foreign citizens were jailed and remain behind bars — while 53 are still serving prison terms beginning in 2016 and 22 from 2015.

There is also a foreign prisoner who began their sentence in 1987 - the longest current term.

As of December, a total of 323 foreign citizens were in Corrections' custody, with 252 of those convicted and/or sentenced.

Those convicted included 88 for violence offending, 67 for sexual offending, 51 for drugs offending, 10 for dishonesty offending, and two for weapons crimes.

As of December, 71 foreign prisoners were awaiting trial or further court hearings.

Corrections said the average cost of housing a sentenced prisoner was $302 a day, while a prisoner on remand awaiting trial or a future court hearing cost $231 per day.

The combined cost of housing the 323 prisoners annually was $33,764,325.

Auckland South Corrections Facility held the most foreign offenders (72), followed by Mt Eden Prison (43), Rimutaka (34), Auckland Prison (30), and Spring Hill (30).

Prisoners identifying as foreign citizens usually do so to seek consular assistance from their home country.

The true identity of the duo jailed in November remains a mystery, with law enforcers in France and Hungary having linked several aliases to the pair for crimes across Europe.

When they appeared in the Auckland District Court for sentencing they went under the names Jozsef Botos, 35, and Peter Vajda, 41.

Court documents show Vajda had a fake passport, purporting to be that of a Hungarian national, and had used it at New Zealand House in London.

Botos used a forged letter of employment to support a temporary visa application. According to court documents the letter was said to have come from the company Kesz & Go, a car rental service in Hungary.

Both men arrived in New Zealand last April 19 under a three-month visitor visa and claimed they were here for "some sightseeing". However, on July 13 they were arrested under suspicion of defrauding Immigration New Zealand.

Inquiries with Interpol in Paris and the Romanian capital of Bucharest showed Botos' fingerprints matched the names of several men on records.

Further investigations found he had a history of fraud and receiving stolen goods in France.

At his sentencing the court heard that the true identities of both men remain a mystery.
Judge Nevin Dawson said the men's fraud had a "high-level of premeditation" to mislead New Zealand authorities and had jeopardised the integrity of the immigration process.

Police believed the men had arrived with the purpose of defrauding Kiwis in some way as they had done in Europe, aiming to slip out of the country before anyone realised what they were up to.

Detective Senior Sergeant Bridget Doell told the Herald the men's arrests were a result of a joint agency investigation which shared information about transnational organised crime groups entering our borders.

"Swift action led to their apprehension and prevention of further offending in New Zealand," she said.

"MBIE [Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment] and NZ Police are satisfied that both men have been dealt with appropriately.

"We endeavour to work collaboratively to deter such individuals entering New Zealand to ensure New Zealand is protected from international fraud."

- An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that 53 foreign citizens were jailed in 2016 and 22 in 2015. In fact 53 are still serving prison terms beginning in 2016 and 22 from 2015.