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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

No favours for scam victims - New Zealand Police

The 36 overstayers who have been caught up in an alleged passport scam will not receive any protection from police.

Detective Senior Sergeant Dave Pizzini says police located the 36 people, who then lodged complaints against Gerrard Otimi.

But he says they will not have any protection from the police when it comes to their immigration status.

"It's between them and the Immigration Service. We don't have anything to do with their immigration status," Mr Pizzini said.

A spokesman for Immigration New Zealand said those who had lodged complaints would be treated the same as others who came forward.

"[Immigration New Zealand] considers their current circumstances, as against the case for them staying in New Zealand.

"This is an individualised assessment. If there is no reason for them to remain, and they are in New Zealand unlawfully, the expectation is always that they will depart New Zealand."

Otimi is facing 39 fraud-related charges and is accused of charging people hundreds of dollars for passport stamps.

He made a brief appearance in the Manukau District Court yesterday and was charged with 36 new counts relating to the alleged alteration of Samoan passports in June.

Otimi - who represented himself - initially refused to stand in the dock.

He asked Judge Anna Johns if she ordered him to stand in the dock. She said she did.

The small courtroom was packed by Otimi supporters, some of whom had protested at the recent Taito Phillip Field case.

Police have indicated that they will disclose evidence to Otimi within three weeks. The defendant will next appear on August 26.

In June, police executed three search warrants in relation to the case and found $40,000 in cash and 5000 blank "hapu certificates".

Otimi claims to be representing a hapu but Tom Roa from Ngati Maniapoto has told the Herald he has never heard of Otimi's hapu - Okahukurapukekauwhatawhataarangi.

Mr Roa was also asked if Otimi was an activist.

"Certainly I would never describe Jerry as an activist, he's an entrepreneur - he thinks beyond the square.

"The key thing really, I think, is the matter of mana," Mr Roa said.

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