Church pastor accused of bringing Samoan police officer to New Zealand under false pretences
A Flaxmere pastor who allegedly brought a Samoan man to New Zealand to work as his 'slave' is facing charges of providing false or misleading information to an immigration officer.
Faaofo Fomai and his church, the Everlasting Gospel Church, each face four charges. Fomai, 59, appeared in Hastings District Court on Tuesday and was remanded without plea until later this month.
The charges relate to Fomai's dealings with a Samoan police officer, Uasi Siatulau, whom he promised a job as a youth pastor in his Hawke's Bay church.
According to an Immigration and Protection Tribunal ruling last year Siatulau claimed to have been exploited by Fomai, who arranged for him to come to New Zealand in April 2015 with his wife and four children.
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In early 2016 Immigration New Zealand discovered he was not working as a youth pastor for the church and he was given four weeks to apply for a variation to his visa conditions or leave.
Siatulau told Immigration NZ he had never worked as a youth pastor and that Fomai had treated him like a "slave".
He told the tribunal the church had few members and there was no youth group for him to work with, and he had been made to pick apples within days of arriving.
The tribunal ruling, issued last year, said Siatulau "left his job in Samoa to come here for a new beginning but had been misled".
"He had been told that he would receive income and his family would have their own accommodation. Instead, once here, he and his wife were expected to stay with the church pastor and he was told he would have to go and work in an orchard," the ruling said.
"He had to pay the pastor $250 weekly to cover expenses. His family had spent six months living with the pastor and paid him a total of $6000... He believed that he had been deceived into coming here under the pretence of working as a church pastor in order to be made to work in the orchard as a slave for the pastor," it said.
When Immigration NZ caught up with Siatulau he was told he should lay a complaint with police and the Labour Inspectorate and said officials said Immigration NZ would investigate Fomai for making false or misleading claims.
Siatulau presented the tribunal with a letter from Fomai stating the church would pay him $1350 to $1400 a fortnight.
He also had a sponsorship form for religious workers completed by Fomai in support of his application for a work visa.
After Immigration NZ declined Siatulau a visa to work in an orchard and served him with a deportation liability notice, he requested that his family be allowed to stay in New Zealand as they had been victims of the pastor.
The tribunal said the situation was "indeed unfortunate" if it was as alleged, but it did not find there were exceptional circumstances of a humanitarian nature, and the deportation order stood.
Siatulau and his family were deported.