An Auckland restaurateur has been sentenced to 26 months' jail and ordered to pay $7200, and her husband to eight months' home detention and pay the same amount in reparation over immigration and exploitation charges.

The charges of exploitation and providing false or misleading information related to five Filipino employees they sponsored to come to New Zealand.

Virgil and Luisito Balajadia, who had both Filipino and New Zealand citizenship, and their restaurant, 3 Kings Food, were each earlier found guilty at the Auckland District Court of two charges of exploitation under the Immigration Act 2009.

Sentencing the pair, the judge said the conditions of the victims was not far removed from a modern-day form of slavery.


Virgil Balajadia, also known as Gie, was convicted of five charges of providing false and misleading information, two of them jointly with her husband, to Immigration New Zealand (INZ).

The information included misleading individual employment agreements which were used in visa applications.

Virgil Balajadia was sentenced at the Auckland District Court today.

"You betrayed the trust of the victims who were strangers to this country and believed that you had their best interests at heart," the judge said on sentencing the pair.

INZ Assistant General Manager Peter Devoy said the case came to light after the victim named in the exploitation charges reported his plight to the Philippines Consulate.

The employee worked for the pair from April 2014 to July 2015, and claimed to have consistently worked at least 10 hours per day, six days a week, without any breaks.

He was paid for at most 40 hours per week, and did not receive any payment for the final three and a half months he worked at the restaurant in Birkenhead.

The victim also had to pay the pair $150 per week to live in a makeshift room in their garage.


"This employee was living at the defendants' house and was taken to the restaurant by the owners every morning and then back to their house at night. He was told he would be reported to the police and sent home if he did not perform well in his job," Devoy said.

"He could only leave the house for short periods of time and cleaned the defendants' house on Mondays when the restaurant was closed."

The entrance to 3 Kings restaurant on Mokoia Rd in Birkenhead. Photo / via Google Maps
The entrance to 3 Kings restaurant on Mokoia Rd in Birkenhead. Photo / via Google Maps

Labour Inspectorate calculations estimated the victim had been underpaid by approximately $15,000 in wages, plus $2,000 less than the minimum wage and was owed $5,000 in holiday pay.

INZ approved visas for five victims - all chefs from the Philippines - after receiving offers of employment, letters of support and job descriptions for them to work at the restaurant.

Although contracted to work for a minimum of 30 hours per week at an hourly rate of $16, they were all either not paid at all or paid for far fewer hours than they worked.

Only one is still in New Zealand on a valid visa to work for another employer. The others had left New Zealand.

Devoy said the prosecution sends a strong message that migrant exploitation will not be tolerated.

"The overriding principle is that migrant workers have the same employment rights as all other workers in New Zealand," Devoy said.

"We will not tolerate employers who exploit migrant labour for their own commercial advantage and will not hesitate to prosecute in cases where warranted."

"We encourage anyone being forced to work in New Zealand illegally for less than the minimum wage and/or excessive hours to contact Immigration New Zealand or the Labour Inspectorate. People can also contact CrimeStoppers anonymously."