Repairs done out of gratitude, Thai immigrant tells court
By David Eames
5:00AM Thursday April 17, 2008
Mangere MP Taito Phillip Field provided free accommodation to an illegal Thai immigrant struggling to keep one step ahead of the authorities, a depositions hearing was told yesterday.
But the fugitive – Phisimai Phothisarn – insists the renovations she did at a Field-owned house while in hiding were done out of gratitude, and without the MP's knowledge.
Giving evidence for a third day, Ms Phothisarn told the Manukau District Court she had met Field several times during 2002, as her immigration plight worsened and she came within hours of deportation.
Ms Phothisarn arrived in New Zealand on a visitor's permit in May 1996, and had been living in Auckland illegally since August of that year.
She narrowly avoided capture during an Immigration Service raid on her Skipton Rd, Mangere, home in September 2002, but was caught when officers raided again in November.
By December, she had been issued a removal order and was shifting from house to house with her infant son to avoid the authorities.
It was at a meeting with Field in late December that the then-Labour MP offered her and her son, and new husband Sompong Srikaew, accommodation in a house in Prangley Ave, Mangere. As the group were not paying rent, they decided to do repair work to the house while they were staying there, Ms Phothisarn told Field's lawyer, Paul Davison, QC.
Field is defending 40 bribery, corruption and obstruction of justice charges after he allegedly allowed several Thai nationals – whom he was helping with immigration issues – to work on his properties for little pay, save the cost of materials.
The offending is alleged to have taken place between November 2002 and October 2005.
But Ms Phothisarn told the court her work – described by Mr Davison as “using plaster to fill in a few holes” – was done without Field's knowledge, and she did not expect payment.
She said Field had tried to give the group money after arriving at the property one day to find the work had been done.
“I just said to him that I did not want his money, I just wanted to do something good in return for his kindness,” she said.
But Field had insisted on paying, and she eventually agreed he could pay for some decorative “ceiling roses”. He later gave her a cheque for $300, the court was told.
Ms Phothisarn and her husband decided to go to Wellington in late 2002 to get a Thai birth certificate for their son, Adelic.
They accepted an offer from Field's wife, Maxine, that they stay at a Field house in the capital. Once there, the group – including two relatives of Ms Phothisarn, one of whom was also an illegal immigrant – did repair work on the house.
The work was done as a gesture of gratitude towards the MP, without his knowledge, the court heard.
In April 2003, Ms Phothisarn got a letter from the Associate Immigration Minister saying she could apply for a New Zealand work permit. By that December she was in the process of completing a residency application.
Independent Mangere MP Taito Phillip Field is facing 40 corruption, bribery and obstruction charges. They include:
* 15 allegations of bribery and corruption.
* 25 allegations of perverting the course of justice.