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Faroz Ali found guilty of 15 human trafficking charges in scam that enticed and exploited Fijians to work in New Zealand.
They were sold a dream: working in New Zealand and earning almost seven times their weekly wages in Fiji.
But, upon arrival into Auckland the false promises quickly unravelled.
They were forced to work illegally for long hours, sleep on the floor of overcrowded basements and were paid little, if anything.
Faroz Ali, 46, was the mastermind behind an elaborate human trafficking scam that enticed and exploited Fijian workers in New Zealand, and was today convicted after a three week trial in Auckland's High Court.
Ali was found guilty of 15 people trafficking charges and guilty of 15 charges for aiding and abetting a person to unlawfully enter New Zealand. He was also found guilty of one charge for aiding and abetting a person to remain unlawfully in New Zealand.
At the beginning of the trial, Ali, a Fijian national with New Zealand residency, pleaded guilty to 26 charges of helping people breach their visa conditions and not paying his employees the minimum wage.
This result marks the first successful trafficking prosecution in New Zealand history.
The maximum penalty for a human trafficking conviction is a prison sentence of 20 years imprisonment and a $500,000 fine, or both.
Human trafficking is the movement, deception or coercion of people for the purposes of exploitation.
Immigration New Zealand (INZ) recently vowed to crackdown on migrant worker exploitation and established a team of four ex-detectives to investigate top tier immigration offences.
This was the first trafficking case the newly formed Serious Offences Unit investigated. It took over 5000 hours and they gathered hundreds of pages of evidence.
One of the lead investigators, Carl Knight, travelled to Fiji a number of times and said many of the exploited workers lived in primitive conditions; some were from villages with only one tap with running water.
"This case was pretty bad when you look at the context of where these people lived and the sacrifices they made to get here," Knight told the Herald.
"They will never have the ability to pay this money back," he said.
The workers were enticed to New Zealand by advertisements in the Fiji Sun newspaper touting high-paying employment that were placed by travel agencies run by Ali's wife and her twin sister.