Christchurch rebuild jobs scam exposed

A Christchurch businessman posing as a recruiter of Filipino workers has exposed the fees some pay to work in New Zealand.

The businessman, who asked not to be named, has provided a recording he made of a licensed immigration adviser, explaining how he could "clip the ticket" on the fee paid by Filipino workers coming to Christchurch.

Filipino workers are becoming a major part of the Christchurch rebuild and can pay up to $10,000, often borrowed at high interest rates, to pay for immigration processing, securing employment, and airfares. Many use the services of ANZSIIS Consulting Ltd, a licensed immigration agent based in Auckland and Manila.

The businessman, who recruits and employs some Filipino workers, recorded a conversation with ANZSIIS director Rosemarie Scholes as he believed Filipino workers were being ripped off. Scholes, originally from the Philippines, was in Christchurch this month.

In the recording, he asked Scholes how much he could get from the workers if they paid an upfront fee of $10,000.

"We want to be clipping the ticket," he said.

Scholes replied the company could expect about $3000 to $4000, "plus you are putting them in a place [accommodation] where they pay you", she said.

She outlined how another Christchurch company (not named for legal reasons) was taking a cut of $2000 from the fee.

Asked by the businessman how he could hide his cut, Scholes said the fee could be labelled as an "agency fee" and paid to a separate company. She would also charge the workers about $2000.

"Any money handed over is between us. No matter what happens [you] will not get caught," she said, adding the system was lucrative enough for him to retire.

"We're helping these people at the same time as they are paying us. It's a win-win situation," Scholes said.

She named other Christchurch clients she dealt with, saying she was contracted to supply about 200 Filipino workers this year. She could also arrange loans for workers who could not afford the fees, with interest amounting to about $2000 on a loan of $10,000 over six months.

Scholes, in a statement, said she believed the businessman was a recruitment agent and therefore entitled to a fee.

"We were talking about a hypothetical situation and the recruitment fee was included in that as I believed they were looking for superior workers such as engineers.

"I referred to them not being caught as there was nothing illegal about them charging a recruitment fee. It is up to them how they report it in terms of their overall income. I reiterate there would be no benefit to me in the increased fee and this is an unfortunate situation where I feel I have been misled and misrepresented over an issue that might relate more to concerns about direct employers than immigration consultants."

The fees her company charged migrants are as follows:

ANZSIIS fee $2019

Philippines Overseas Employment Agency $1800

Air ticket $1300

Medical certification $300-$400

Other documentation $200

Marketing Agent NZ Dream $1300

In other documentation she listed the fee charged by the New Zealand embassy for visa processing as $400 when the actual fee, according to Immigration NZ, is $270.

The Philippines embassy in Wellington said the fee charged by the Philippines Overseas Employment Administration (not agency) was about $40, not the $1800 stated by ANZSIIS. Scholes said her POEA figure referred to the fee charged by private agencies and the documentation she provided was a draft agreement but she charged the correct fee on actual agreements.

Scholes also founded the ANZSIIS (Australasia New Zealand Societal Intelligence and Immigration Services) International School. The company behind the school was put into liquidation by the High Court in Auckland last week on an application by Inland Revenue. She remains the only director and shareholder of ANZSIIS Consulting Ltd.

Sunday Star Times