A Thai overstayer who tiled MP Taito Phillip Field's house in Samoa says Field gave him 1000 tala ($553) after asking him to lie to police about the work he had done for him.
Sunan Siriwan, who referred to Field twice as "Big Dad", told the Manukau District Court through an interpreter yesterday that "almost everything" he said to a lawyer appointed to investigate the case was untrue.
He said Field told him, while driving in a car in Samoa in or around December 2005, that he had "a problem" in New Zealand and that he should tell the police that he did not work for the MP.
"He told me at that time that you are not working at my place, and he also said to me, 'Don't tell the police that you and I met'," Mr Siriwan said.
He said Field asked him the next morning if he had money, and Mr Siriwan replied that he did.
"Then he gave me 1000 tala, which he has never given me that much before," Mr Siriwan told the court. "I did not understand why he gave me so much money."
Mr Siriwan and his partner, Aumporn Phanngarm, were brought to New Zealand from Thailand by police two weeks ago to give evidence in the depositions hearing against Field, who faces 40 charges of bribery, corruption and perverting the course of justice.
He told prosecutor David Johnstone that both he and Ms Phanngarm were illegal overstayers when he first went to see Field in December 2004, because he had been told that Field "helped people".
He said that at the first meeting, Field asked whether he was a tiler. When he confirmed that he was, Field told him through an interpreter that "he would like to help you if you go to do the tiling work for his house in Samoa".
He said Ms Phanngarm was caught by immigration authorities soon afterwards and was deported to Thailand with the couple's son Henry, who was then about 3.
When Field met Mr Siriwan again on February 7, 2005, Mr Siriwan took with him Thai-speaking Auckland builder Keith Williams, who offered to go to Samoa with him. The court interpreter referred to him yesterday as "Chris Williams".
"Because I wanted my status to be legal, and Chris Williams said to me that if I work for Taito at his house in Samoa then I would be able to get that proper permit to come back to New Zealand," Mr Siriwan said, through the interpreter.
He said he was told that the new house in Samoa was about 400 sq m and he estimated that it would take four months to tile.
He said he worked mostly seven days a week for eight to 10 hours a day. In return, he was paid "expenses".
"Some weeks I got 100 tala ($55), other weeks 150 to 200 tala ($83-$110)," he said.
He said that about three months after he arrived in Samoa, he received a letter from Field about a work permit in New Zealand. Shortly afterwards, two other Thai men, Kaew and Yao, arrived from New Zealand "to do gib-stopping for Big Dad".
Because he was short of money, Mr Siriwan sold a gold chain to Kaew for $3000. He said he gave $2000 of this to Field "for Aumporn", who had been brought to Samoa by the Field family with Henry.
"As far as I understood, I could go back to New Zealand because I had already paid $1931.95," he said.
But he said he was unable to take up the work permit because Field would not let him go to the NZ immigration office to get it stamped. By this time, another Thai immigrant, Jinda Thaivichit, had told him by phone from New Zealand that Field was in trouble.
"She told me what to say to avoid problems for Big Dad."
* CORRUPTION CASE
Mangere MP Taito Phillip Field faces 40 charges of bribery, corruption and perverting the course of justice.
A depositions hearing began on April 7 to determine whether he will face a High Court trial.
A succession of Thai immigrants have alleged that they worked on houses owned by Field for no, or minimal, pay because he helped them.
Several of the Thais have also alleged that Field asked them to lie to independent investigator Noel Ingram QC.
Auckland builder Keith Williams is expected to take the witness stand today.
The hearing is due to finish this week.