Scheme “Sounded Lawful”—(Former N.Z. Immigration Minister) Delamere
Stuff New (New Zealand)
Former Immigration Minister Tuariki Delamere says he was told an immigration scheme over which he faces fraud and forgery charges was most likely lawful but he didn't pay $80,000 to get a full legal opinion about it.
Under cross-examination from crown prosecutor Simon Moore yesterday, the former New Zealand First MP told the High Court in Auckland that the legality of his scheme came up in conversations with his brother, an accountant, and businessman Waari Ward-Holmes.
“He (Mr Ward-Holmes) said he thought it sounded lawful but that he didn't feel qualified to give an unqualified answer,” Delamere said.
“He said he discussed it with one of his lawyers and they came back and said that for the lawyers to give a full opinion they were happy to do so but that it could cost about $80,000.”
Delamere, who became an immigration consultant after losing his seat in Parliament in 1999, said he did not pay the $80,000 and thus did not get a full legal opinion of the scheme.
Delamere faces 20 charges, including nine counts of using forged documents, seven counts of using a document with intent to defraud and four counts of using a document dishonestly.
The charges, brought by the Serious Fraud Office, allege that Delamere falsely told the Immigration Service that seven clients had each invested $1 million of their own money with a New Zealand company, qualifying them for residency under the business migration category.
The SFO alleges that Delamere's Chinese business partner, Yan Jiang, contributed the $1 million to New Zealand Golden Harvest, a company the pair jointly set up, and the money was used seven times for seven different applications in a “money-go-round” involving the bank account of a Hong Kong company, Harvest International.
Delamere said all information handed to the Immigration Service was genuine, legal and valid, and that his scheme was lawful.
He said yesterday that any serious checking of the documents would not have seen charges brought against him, and that he had been set up by Jiang, his former business partner.
Exchanges between Delamere and Mr Moore frequently became heated, with Mr Moore becoming frustrated at what he saw was Delamere avoiding answering his questions directly by giving long elaborations instead.
Midway through yesterday's cross-examination Justice Patricia Courtney told Delamere that it was important that he listen to every question carefully and answer it, and that he could elaborate on answers at length if he wished only after directly answering the question.
When Mr Moore suggested that his scheme was “smoke and mirrors”, Delamere said “the only smoke and mirrors scheme has been created by you and your colleagues”.
Much of the questioning related to specific immigration documents for the seven clients whose applications Delamere has been charged over.
Mr Moore also questioned Delamere about why some answers he gave the court about documents were different to those he gave to police and serious fraud office interviewers, interviews in which he was often given several minutes to answer.
Delamere said that during the interviews he was given documents on the spot and expected to give answers, and that subsequent research and evidence he heard presented at the trial had clarified events in his mind.
Cross-examination of Delamere is expected to continue today, after which both lawyers are expected to sum the case up.