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A fake passport and visa ring busted in India could have helped illegal aliens sneak into New Zealand, authorities believe.
Forgers had made visas for nearly 150 countries and illegally sent more than 100 people to Europe, Britain, the US, Canada, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand, police have told The Hindu newspaper.
A tip-off to police earlier this month led a special central crime branch unit to two Sri lankan nationals they believed had been running a "thriving" fake passport and visa racket for the last four years.
Officers then raided the forgery headquarters in Chennai, The Hindu reports, where they seized seals of visas for 150 countries, as well as 110 passports including fake and invalid Indian and Sri Lankan ones.
Police say the scheme involved "procuring invalid Indian passports" for around NZ$60 and printing fake visas on them.
The Hindu says police fear the gang may have been helped by some immigration authority insiders.
Four people were arrested on Sunday and remanded in custody at Chennai's Puzhal prison.
Yesterday, a US State Department report was released which claimed New Zealand is a "destination country" for foreign men and women subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking.
The department's 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report has also labelled New Zealand as a source country for children subjected to sex trafficking within the country.
Foreign men from Indonesia aboard foreign-flagged fishing vessels in New Zealand territorial waters were also subjected to forced labor, debt bondage, confiscation of passports, imposition of significant debts, poor living and working conditions, and physical and sexual abuse, the report stated.
While New Zealand's Government fully complied with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, the report criticised the Government for not prosecuting any trafficking offenders in the last eight years.
Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said new legislation was in the pipeline to enable further action to be taken "should evidence of trafficking emerge".
"Although all notified allegations of trafficking are investigated, there have been no substantiated cases of people trafficking.
"However, we remain alert to the possibility."
- By Kurt Bayer of APNZ