The man at the centre of a controversial court case when women witnesses initially refused to remove their burqas has been convicted of insurance fraud.

The Afghanistan-born defendant, Abdul Razamjoo, 40, was charged over the alleged theft of a car.

He was convicted in Auckland District Court yesterday and was ordered to make reparations of $3130 -- about one third of the insurance loss, his lawyer Colin Amery said today. He was also given 50 hours of community work.

The case attracted controversy last year when the witnesses refused to remove their burqas, which cover their faces, in court. One said it was against her religion and she would rather kill herself than allow her face to be seen by Razamjoo by removing her burqa.

They eventually gave evidence behind a screen which hid them from the court and Razamjoo but which allowed them to be seen by Judge Lindsay Moore, the prosecutor and Mr Amery.

Mr Amery had earlier argued that for witnesses to give evidence with their faces covered meant he would not be able to assess their demeanour.

- NZPA