A leader of New Zealand's small Sikh community has been found guilty of forging election documents in a bid to win a local body election three years ago.
Labour Party member and Sikh leader Daljit Singh was found guilty in the High Court in Auckland of two charges of dealing with forged documents. He had changed residential addresses to show that people from places such as Timaru and Tauranga appeared to live in the area of Otara-Papatoetoe Local Board in Auckland.
Singh, who was a candidate in the first Auckland "super-city" election in 2010, was found not guilty of 18 other counts of the same charge.
The charge, Section 257 (1)(c) of the Crimes Act – "knowing a document to be forged, caused another person to use, deal with, or act upon them as if they were genuine" – carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years..
Six others were also charged with the same offence – Gurinder Atwal, Davinder Singh, Mandeep Singh, Virender Singh, Paramjit Singh and Malkeet Singh.
All were found guilty of at least one count each, except Davinder Singh who was found not guilty.
Crown prosecutor Robin McCoubrey told the jury in opening: "In a sentence, he [Daljit Singh] and his associates ... carried out a fraud in the election system to try and assist Daljit Singh."
Atwal, Singh's "right-hand man", was found guilty of 13 counts of dealing with the forged electoral documents.
McCoubrey said that at the time the Electoral Enrolment Centre (EEC) made it "rather easy" for people to go online and change their electoral address.
Daljit Singh and Atwal used the names of Sikhs to go on to the EEC's website, he said.
Once there they would change the address, to the local board area where Daljit Singh was standing, and then download a declaration form which they signed and submitted.
"The vast majority of those whose addresses were changed were unaware it was happening," McCoubrey said.
EEC staff became suspicious when they saw unusual patterns in address changes, he said.
They noticed many voters were registered to the same address. They also found that they were coming from the same internet provider addresses, or same computers, and these were from Daljit Singh's home and from Atwal's.
EEC staff also noticed that the local board ward was the only one in Auckland showing an increase in voter numbers when every other ward was going down.
McCoubrey gave the jury an example of six people in Timaru who had their addresses changed.
The declaration form submitted for five of them was found to have come from Daljit Singh's computer while the sixth came from his office, the Crown said.
All court proceedings were translated by Punjabi interpreters in a marathon trial that lasted two months.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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