Immigration NZ Prosecutes Tauranga Contractor for Migrant Exploitation

This is a summary of news article published at https://www.nzherald.co.nz/bay-of-plenty-times/news/migrant-exploitation-tauranga-kiwifruit-orchard-labour-contractor-pleads-guilty-to-charges/

A contractor in Tauranga, NZ pleads guilty to exploiting illegal migrant workers, underpaying wages and charging rent. Immigration NZ brought charges after an investigation prompted by Zespri's worker exploitation allegations. The exploited workers were promised high earning potential, but forced to live in crowded and unheated conditions, while being underpaid thousands of dollars.

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A labour contractor in Tauranga has pleaded guilty to exploiting four illegal migrant workers, one of whom lived in a crowded and poorly insulated garage for four months. The contractor, Jafar Kurisi, underpaid the workers thousands of dollars in wages, charged them rent, and made them pay for travel costs. Appearing in the Tauranga District Court, Kurisi admitted to seven charges related to not paying minimum wage and holiday pay between December 2018 and July 2020. He also pleaded guilty to attempting to pervert the course of justice. Kurisi, who previously exploited 13 workers, was sentenced to 12 months of home detention in 2017. The latest charges were brought by Immigration NZ after an investigation prompted by Zespri's allegations of worker exploitation.

The exploited workers, who were from Indonesia and Malaysia, had been promised high earning potential in New Zealand by a visa agent. They borrowed money to pay for what they thought were work visas and travel costs. One worker borrowed NZ$11,850 and was granted a visitor's visa instead of a work permit. This worker, along with 19 others, was forced to live in a crowded and unheated garage under Kurisi's house. Due to a lack of mattresses, some workers slept on the carpeted floor. In January 2020, the victim was moved to another house owned by Kurisi, where he slept in a cold garage with holes in it, continuing to pay rent. Immigration NZ estimates that Kurisi underpaid this worker $24,338.54 in minimum wages.

Kurisi's victims, who paid a visa agent for fraudulent work permits and associated travel costs, were collectively unpaid $121,134.06 in minimum wages, and three workers also did not receive holiday pay entitlements. Kurisi was convicted on all charges and will be sentenced on May 1. His previous offences involved providing substandard accommodation and food and failing to pay minimum wages or holiday pay. The exploitation of workers in the kiwifruit orchard industry has been a significant issue in the Bay of Plenty, leading to joint investigations between Immigration NZ and the horticulture industry. Zespri, a major player in the industry, welcomed the prosecution and reaffirmed its commitment to providing a safe working environment.

author headshot Michael Yoon
Last modified on 2 February 2024 by
Michael Yoon
Michael has been working as a lawyer in New Zealand since 2006. Over the years, he has successfully helped thousands of clients to get their desired outcome. Clients find Michael knowledgeable, approachable and professional — a trusted expert.

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