Maricel Weischede, whose company NZ Immigration Help Service acted for the complainant, said she hoped the decision would give confidence to other victims of such activity to come forward.
WIX, Photo / File
28 September 2013
An immigration adviser who told a businessman he could "clip the ticket" on fees paid by migrant rebuild workers has been found guilty of helping dupe a Filipino nurse into paying thousands of dollars for an English-language programme the adviser had a financial interest in.
Rosemarie Scholes, director of Auckland-based immigration consultants ANZSIIS, was this month found guilty of breaching the Immigration Advisers Authority code of conduct.
It was ruled she failed to meet her duties of care, diligence, respect and professionalism.
In March, The Press published details of a recording in which a businessman, posing as a recruiter of Filipino workers, was offered $3000 to $4000 by Scholes to "clip the ticket" on upfront fees paid by Filipino workers to secure employment in New Zealand.
The recording shone the spotlight on the potential exploitation of Filipino migrants coming to Christchurch. That issue was passed on to the authority.
Scholes said at the time she believed the businessman was a recruitment agent and therefore entitled to a fee.
The complaint for which Scholes was found guilty involved a qualified Filipino nurse who in 2010 sought assistance with gaining nursing registration in New Zealand.
Scholes initially engaged with the complainant through an "unqualified" agent in the Philippines. That agent, referred to only as "Ms Rubio", told the nurse she would need to show Immigration New Zealand she had more than $8000 in her bank account to get a visa.
The complainant said she did not have that much money so the agent offered to lend her more than $4500 at an interest rate of 5 per cent a month, which the nurse accepted.
Scholes, working with Rubio, then enrolled the nurse to study at ANZSIIS International School, where Scholes had a financial interest.
On the agent's advice, the nurse also obtained a visa for a course to prepare for International English Language Testing System level 5, even though she already had passed a level 6.5 course. The course was a serious financial burden for the complainant and her family, the decision said.
Scholes denied the complaint on the grounds she did provide proper advice and was not responsible for her agent's conduct. The ANZSIIS International School was placed into liquidation in March.
Tribunal chairman Grant Pearson said Scholes failed to evaluate her client's immigration opportunities and instead channelled her to a course that would lead to Scholes benefiting financially and that was not required for her client.
She also allowed an unqualified person, Rubio, to provide the professional services Scholes was required to deliver, he said.
"That person . . . took the opportunity of exploiting her client and her client's family," Pearson said.
The tribunal registrar and the complainant now have the opportunity to provide submissions on the appropriate sanctions, including potential orders for costs, refund of fees and compensation.
It is understood that the earlier investigation by The Press into Scholes will form part of the complainant's submissions. A Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment spokesperson said inquiries into Scholes as a result of the earlier Press investigation were continuing.
Immigration adviser Maricel Weischede, whose company NZ Immigration Help Service acted for the complainant, said she hoped the decision would give confidence to other victims of such activity to come forward.
"We have heard a lot of things about this occurring but it's very seldom that a person will put their hand up and say, ‘Yes, I am willing to put down my name'."
The nurse had since applied to go through a compliance course with the Nursing Council and was now working in the country. She had also applied for her residency, Weischede said.
The NZIIS website is "under maintenance".
Scholes said she could not comment on the finding because the process was "out of my hands".
Source: Stuff NZ