Passport scam: the cops need a complainant

Alf can only echo the sentiments expressed this morning at Keeping Stock. He, too, had hoped to awaken this morning to news that immigration scammer Gerrard Otimi had been arrested and charged with multiple counts of fraud.

Actually, he didn’t hope it would have happened. He expected it would have happened.

It shouldn’t be too hard for the cops to track down the ringleader.

He has admitted taking money, although he would have us believe he is helping those who cough up. He’s into good deeds, see.

The leader of a self-styled Maori sovereignty group charging $500 for stamps in “passports” says he isn’t ripping anyone off, simply helping desperate people who want to stay in New Zealand.

Gerrard Otimi said about 50 families had each paid him $500 for the documents – and in return he gave them $500 of “Maori barter currency” to cancel out the fee.

As Stuff tells us, the deal has been widely criticised by Maori and Pacific Island leaders as a scam and they are urging anyone who has paid the money to contact the authorities.

Pacific Island Affairs Minister Georgina Te Heuheu said Mr Otimi’s interpretation of tino rangatiratanga was his own.

She failed to see how any interpretation could target vulnerable people and take advantage of them.

Peter Skelton, chairman of Mangere Community Board, said victims should go to the authorities.

“These people are hitting low income people.”

Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples told reporters it was a “disgusting” scam and could harm Maori-Pacific Island relations.

But the Herald’s story has Otimi telling Radio NZ the process was not illegal and he wasn’t ripping anyone off.

Mr Otimi said overstayers were dying because they couldn’t legally work here.

They were stressed because they were in overcrowded accommodation and their children couldn’t go to school.

He said he started the process when approached by a family that had a problem with Immigration New Zealand.

He helped them out and it had grown from there, he said.

He was not offering passports or visas, but for people to be part of his hapu.

However, they were still overstayers and he couldn’t guarantee they could stay in New Zealand, he said.

“The documents are to notarise them, and the Immigration Department, to say they are now under our care,” he told TV3’s Campbell Live yesterday.

Yet the Herald talks of “hundreds of victims.”

It proceeds to say hundreds of Pacific people in Hamilton and parts of South Auckland are thought to have fallen victim to the scam, in which fake residency stamps and visas were given out at various marae for a charge of $500.

A woman whose friends were ripped off by the scheme said it was hard not to believe that the visas were real, given that the stamps looked genuine and that the seminars were being led by Maori.

She said those at the meetings were each given a form to fill out, in order to gain their permanent-residency visa.

“There’s two lines – you hand your form in one then go to the other one with your $500 and they stamp your passport right there,” she said.

“From then on – say if you’re a Samoan [citizen] – you’re not called a Samoan any more. You’re a real Maori, a tangata whenua.

“But after that, they tell you you are not allowed ever to go overseas for 10 years. You can’t leave New Zealand.”

Then we learn of hundreds of Islanders turning up at a meeting in Mangere yesterday where immigration adviser Ta’avao Vole warned them it was a scam, and how up to 1000 people turned up at a marae in Manurewa for a meeting that was later cancelled because of the size of the crowd, and how the night before, a meeting in Mangere drew hundreds.

Gatherings have also been held in Hamilton.

The meetings are organised by people calling themselves a Maori sovereignty party, led by Mr Otimi.
Mr Otimi came under fire in 2005, when he began printing and trading using fake money called Maori pounds.

So what’s the problem when it comes to banging the bugger up?

Police say they have not had anyone come forward with complaints, possibly because many victims were overstayers.

They are appealing to those who have paid the $500 for a fake residency stamp to come forward.

Fat chance. The victims have bloody good cause to lie low.

Anyway, would the cops be looking for someone to complain if they spotted Otimi breaking the speed limit on his way to the next con?

The words are not minced at Keeping Stock

We’ve been involved in immigration consulting, and we know the emotional roller-coaster that people go through. We also know that when you’re desperate, you do desperate things.

But people such as Gerrard Otimi who target these desperate people are akin to lowlife pond-scum – which is probably being unkind to lowlife pond-scum!

Otimi told One News last night that he was “whangai adopting” people into his hapu, making them eligible to stay in New Zealand. That, of course, is complete and utter bullshit.

We hope that Otimi is arrested without any further delay, and that the book is thrown at him with considerable force. Police need to act quickly, before any more people are defrauded by this con-man.

Pretty well sums it up.

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