Caught by Chinese and Fijian authorities, deported from Australia and the US - but allowed into New Zealand. How did we let two key figures in a large, international organised crime group slip into the country?

One of the conmen, believed to be of Romanian descent, was on the banned from entering the country list after crimes in Australia and America, but last year he and his co-offender defrauded immigration authorities here and in London to cross the New Zealand border.

It took three months before authorities caught up to them and arrested the duo in Auckland.

But it wasn't the first time Peter Vajda, 41, had tried to beat the system here, Herald investigations can now reveal.


Vajda, who has several aliases and whose true identity according to Interpol is a mystery, first tried to gain entry into New Zealand on May 15, 2015.

However, he was stopped in Shanghai by Chinese authorities who caught him using a different name, Marian Mititelu, and birth date.

Vajda had by then already been placed on the banned from New Zealand list, after he falsely applied for a US visa in October 2012 under the identity of Marian Palovici, claiming to be a married man and working in the computer industry.

The US Department of State declined his visa, and so Vajda tried his luck in Australia.

In 2014 he was arrested across the ditch with nearly $44,000 in cash and several fake credit cards. He was again using the Romanian identity of Marian Palovici.

Convicted of several bank crimes, including ATM skimming across Sydney, he was imprisoned before being deported.

But Vajda's life of crime continued, and in September 2015 he again applied for a US visa. This time he used the name Marian Mititelu and claimed he worked for his mother's construction company.

Again the US declined his application.

Then in November 2015 he was caught trying to enter the States across the Mexican border and deported back to Romania in 2016.

After his failed American attempts, Vajda turned his attention back to New Zealand.

He attempted to sneak in on a cruise ship via Fiji using the name Marian Loliu, but was stopped at the ports of Fiji on June 13, 2016 along with several other Romanians.

Then, on April 12 last year, Vajda arrived at Christchurch Airport on a Qantas flight from Brisbane and this time presented an arrival card in the name of Peter Vajda.

Court documents show he used a forged Hungarian passport.

Hungarian passport holders do not need a visitor visa to travel to New Zealand for a period of less than three months.

But he didn't declare that he'd been previously deported from Australia and the US and was granted a three-month visitor stay.

On June 22 Immigration New Zealand (INZ) accepted a visitor visa application from Vajda, on which the conman had lied about his global crimes.

The application came just days before co-offender Jozsef Botos, 35, also defrauded an immigration officer at New Zealand House in London.

Botos used a forged letter of employment to support his 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.

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

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

Botos was jailed for 18 months, while Vajda was jailed last November for 12 months by Judge DJ Sharp in the Auckland District Court.

At Botos' sentencing Judge Nevin Dawson said the fraud had a "high level of premeditation" to mislead New Zealand authorities and had jeopardised the integrity of the immigration process.

Once police were aware the men were in the country swift action led to their arrests as a result of shared information about transnational organised crime groups, the officer in charge Detective Senior Sergeant Bridget Doell has told the Herald.

After they were arrested in Albany, police also said the men were "both key figures in a large, international organised crime group involved in credit card skimming and the production of false identities".

INZ assistant general manager Peter Devoy said Vajda's Hungarian passport was later suspected to be a genuinely issued document obtained by fraudulent means.

He said Vajda was deported earlier this month, but for legal and privacy reasons could not comment any further on the deportation.

"In terms of prevention, INZ has now obtained Mr Vajda's biometric details which enable for early intervention if he were to try and travel to New Zealand again," Devoy said.

Botos will also be deported at the conclusion of his sentence.

Timeline of crime

October 2012:

Vajda applies for a US visa, claiming to be Marian Palovici, a computer technician. The US declines his application.

2014: Vajda is arrested in Australia with nearly $44,000 in cash and several fake credit cards after defrauding several banks in Sydney. He is jailed and deported back to Romania.

May 2015: Vajda attempts to enter New Zealand under the name Marian Mititelu but is stopped in Shanghai by Chinese authorities.

September 2015: Vajda again applies for a US visa, claiming he works in construction. The US again declines his application.

November 2015: Vajda attempts to slip into the US across the Mexican border. He is caught and deported back to Romania in 2016.

June 2016: Vajda attempts to enter New Zealand again via a cruise from Fiji under the name Marian Loliu. He is stopped in Fiji along with several other Romanians.

April 2017: Vajda arrives at Christchurch Airport from Brisbane and is allowed into New Zealand on a three-month visa after fabricating his arrival card and using a fake Hungarian passport.

June 2017: Immigration New Zealand accepts a fraudulent visa application from Vajda.

July 2017: Auckland Police arrest Vajda and Jozsef Botos, who defrauded Immigration New Zealand in London. Police say both men are key figures in a large, international organised crime group.

November 2017: After pleading guilty, Vajda and Botos are sentenced and jailed.