Auckland's Thai community is in shock after one of it's "immigration champions" is charged with multiple counts of giving immigration advice without being licensed and unlawfully taking payment, a Thai community leader says.
Timothy Joseph Spooner appeared in the Manukau District Court on Monday charged with five counts of providing immigration advice without being licensed or exempt knowing he was required to be licensed or exempt.
The 65-year-old also faced three charges of holding himself out as a licensed immigration adviser knowing he does not hold a licence nor is exempt, and four charges of asking for or receiving a fee for the provision of immigration advice knowing that he was neither licensed nor exempt.
NZ Thai Society president Songvut Manoonpong said it came as a shock because many in the community had thought he was licensed.
"Tim has been providing immigration advice to the community for many, many years," Manoonpong said.
"To many in the community he is like an immigration champion who fights for the serious and desperate cases."
Manoonpong said among those Spooner had helped included Naengnoi Sriphet, a Thai national with NZ citizenship who was jailed in 2015 recruiting women from Thailand to work illegally as sex workers in Auckland.
Spooner had a Thai wife and would occasionally visit the Thai temple in Kelston.
"The community is in shock about the news," Manoonpong added.
Spooner's charges relate to advice provided on student, visitor, work and residence visa applications as well as advising one of his victims to appeal to the Immigration & Protection Tribunal.
He has been remanded on bail to reappear before the court on April 18.
The Registrar of Immigration Advisers, Catherine Albiston, said this was an example of someone who is alleged to have been taking advantage of vulnerable migrants, particularly, in the Thai community.
"If people need help with a visa application, they should only use a licensed immigration adviser or exempt person," Catherine said.
The Immigration Advisers Authority online register of licensed advisers can be found at www.iaa.govt.nz.
People found breaking the law can face up to seven years in prison and a fine of up to NZD$100,000.