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Man found guilty of people trafficking

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 15/09/2016 By Boris Jancic

A man accused of luring migrant workers into paying thousands of dollars for jobs, only to exploit them for cheap labour and send them home nearly penniless, has been found guilty of people trafficking.

Faroz Ali, 46, has been standing trial, charged with bringing 15 Fijian workers illegally into New Zealand and then subjecting them to exploitative working conditions on farms in the Bay of Plenty between 2013 and 2015.

On Thursday, a jury a High Court at Auckland found him guilty of 15 charges of people trafficking and 16 others for helping people illegally get into, or stay in, the country.

During the trial, prosecutors said the workers were promised pay of $17 an hour by a company run by Ali's wife in Fiji and were charged total fees of more than FJ$3000 up front for jobs.

But when they arrived in Tauranga, they were given visitors' visas, left to sleep on the floor of a garage and at times worked weeks in orchards without any pay.

Suliana Vetanivula, a 49-year-old mother of seven, cried as she told the court of the shame of going home with almost no money after months in New Zealand - having borrowed large amounts to get the job.

When she had confronted a colleague of Ali's after working 14 days straight without pay, he had told her she actually owed him money, she said.

After another week he had given her and three other workers $100 so they could buy themselves food and later another $50 - all split between the group.

"We all slept together in one room. There was no beddings. Nothing was provided," she said, describing how she eventually went back home with only FJ$300 a friend had lent her..

But Ali's lawyer, Peter Broad told the court Ali - a Fijian national who holds New Zealand residency - didn't know what the workers were being promised in Fiji, because he had been in New Zealand when they signed up.

At the start of his trial on Ali also pleaded guilty to 18 charges of not paying workers the minimum wage or holiday pay along with eight other charges of helping people breach their visa conditions.

Ali will be sentenced in October.

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