Lawyer involved with NZ’s first human trafficking conviction gets home detention for fraud

Mohammed Idris Hanif was sentenced for his part in New Zealand’s first human trafficking conviction.

A lawyer linked to New Zealand’s first convicted human trafficker has been sentenced for fraud, continuing to show no remorse to his victims.

In April, Mohammed Idris Hanif was found guilty of five counts of knowingly providing false and misleading information to Immigration New Zealand (INZ).

That information was given as part of legal services he provided to convicted human trafficker Faroz Ali in 2014.

On Friday, Hanif was sentenced at Manukau District Court to 10 months of home detention and ordered to pay reparation of $1575 to his victims, by Judge Gregory Hikaka.

Ali was found guilty in 2016 – the first conviction for human trafficking in New Zealand.

Hanif was found guilty of fraud at the Manukau District Court.

For his part, Hanif, who had been a lawyer since 1987, provided false and misleading information to INZ on visitor visa applications submitted on behalf of Fijians trafficked by Ali.

During his trial in April, the court heard he knew the real reason for the Fijian victims to remain in New Zealand was to work for Ali, but the applications claimed they were genuine tourists and wanted to stay in the country longer to sightsee and visit family and friends.

Hanif admitted assisting with visa applications when questioned by immigration investigators but claimed he was unaware it was for them to continue working for Ali.

Faroz Ali was found guilty of human trafficking in 2016.

In court on Friday, Judge Hikaka said a fisherman, farmer and a student from Fiji had all responded to advertisements in search of a better life in New Zealand and were told a visitor visa was all they needed.

“Their living arrangements were poor and they had come with the prospect with earning significantly more than what they would earn in Fiji,” Judge Hikaka said.

Representing himself in court, Hanif told report writers he still believed he had done nothing wrong and claimed the charges remained allegations.

That was dismissed by Judge Hikaka who said Hanif’s offending was serious.

“There is a need to deter people who want to undermine immigration processes, barristers and solicitors have a privileged position,” Judge Hikaka said.

Hanif breached his position of trust as a barrister and also breached the trust of the vulnerable victims, he said.

“These vulnerable applicants were putting (trust) in you to see their time in this country was legitimised,” Judge Hikaka said.

“This entitled you to continue with this sham of a position you were presenting immigration with,” he said.

In court on Friday, prosecutor Shona Carr submitted Hanif’s offending was “not a trivial matter that could be dealt with without a conviction”.

Carr said the victims of the trafficking case were embarrassed, ashamed and unable to repay their debt and were no longer trusted by their communities in Fiji.

“The people suffered adverse consequences both personally and financially, the offending enabled them to continue to be exploited while they were holding on to their big life time opportunity … which would have significantly changed their life.

“They worked hard, continued to put up with the conditions they were living in because they had invested a significant amount of money and were hopeful they would get it back,” Carr said.

Hanif will now face an inquiry by the New Zealand Law Society.

“If a person in his position in this profession indulges in this type of behaviour he must have ultimately realised there would be some risk and damage to his reputation,” she said.

Carr told Judge Hikaka Hanif had continued to show no remorse, had a sense of entitlement and had deceived the victims and his own profession.

“The most significant factor in any of this is the absence of any remorse, he doesn’t accept the findings and still thinks and maintains the complainants had ulterior motives,” she said.

Carr submitted Hanif should be jailed for two years and should not receive home detention.

The court heard the Fijian workers have since returned home.