business

A Hawke's Bay businessman "in a position of considerable power" has been sentenced to five months' home detention after fleecing thousands of dollars off immigrant workers.

Pegasus Energy sole director Jag Mohan Singh Rawat, 51, appeared in the Napier District court before Judge Geoff Rea on Monday after pleading guilty in January to four charges of providing false or misleading information and two charges of exploitation.

Rawat had hired two Indian Nationals, Shubham Sharma and Jaspal Singh, in 2013 and subjected them to illegal employment dealings in Flaxmere for two years.

Mr Sharma and Mr Singh both had temporary job search visas when they were recruited as forecourt attendants for the BP2Go service station on Swansea Rd in 2013.

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Throughout their 90 day trial periods Mr Sharma and Mr Singh were paid for 20 hours of work a week but were subject far longer working hours.

Mr Sharma, who had been working for more than one month before signing an employment agreement and starting a 90 day trial period, had worked 55 hours each week but was only paid for 20 hours per week at an hourly rate of $14.85.

Later in 2013 Rawat went on to offer both individuals positions as shift supervisors which would qualify them for specific work visas later that year, only to have them work significantly greater hours than he stipulated in information he gave to Immigration New Zealand.

In June 2015 Rawat also approached both complainants and told them he could arrange for Mr Sharma to be promoted to manager and Mr Singh to assistant manager.

He had explained that as well as a higher pay rate the promotion would be "beneficial in respect of their visas" and after individual employment agreements were signed Mr Sharma and Mr Singh went on to work 55-hour weeks to only be paid for 35.5 hours a week.

Rawat also sought weekly payments of $150 from Mr Sharma and Mr Singh, telling them that it was to cover their PAYE.

The company was found in serious default of minimum wage payments and in serious contravention of the wage protection act having charged a premium for employment.

The monetary amounts underpaid or improperly paid amounted to $6165.75 for Mr Sharma and $8332.13 for Mr Singh.

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A summary of facts obtained by Hawke's Bay Today details that Rawat had "generated a level of control over both complainants by reminding them that their work status in New Zealand was temporary and that deportation to India was a possibility".

Judge Geoff Rea said Rawat was a person "in a position of considerable power who had not hesitated to improperly use this power to benefit himself and, indirectly, his family.

"You need to realise as to others that this sort of offending is regarded seriously by the court and the community."

Pegasus Energy Ltd was convicted and discharged of two exploitation charges in January after Rawat admitted the offences.

The company is still to appear before the Employment Relations Authority.