Former New Zealand Immigration Minister Cleared

Former NZ Immigration Minister Cleared

Associated Press 03.02.07, 11:54 AM ET

A New Zealand jury cleared a former immigration minister Friday after he was accused of fraud in connection with an alleged scheme to help Chinese migrants circumvent the law and gain New Zealand residency.

The jury of eight women and four men took three hours to find former Immigration Minister Tuariki John Delamere innocent of 14 charges of fraud, forgery and dishonesty while he worked as an immigration consultant.

Six similar charges were withdrawn earlier by High Court Justice Patricia Courtney.

Prosecutors told the court in the northern city of Auckland that Delamere had used his knowledge of immigration laws, many of which he had crafted himself, to create an elaborate plan of fraud.

Delamere's attorney argued that he was simply “exploiting a loophole.”

New Zealand's Serious Fraud Office claimed Delamere had falsely informed the nation's Immigration Service that seven Chinese clients had each invested $679,000 of their own money with a New Zealand company – qualifying them for residency under the business migration category.

The office alleges the money actually belonged to Delamere's Chinese business partner, Yan Jiang, and was sent to New Zealand Golden Harvest, a company the pair had jointly set up.

It said the money was recycled in a “money-go-round” scheme for the seven, which saw it sent back to a Hong Kong bank account seven times.

The defense said Delamere had acted honestly at all times.

Delamere had faced up to seven years in jail if found guilty.