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People-trafficking charges have been laid in New Zealand for the first time.
Two men arrested in the Motueka area this morning appeared in Nelson District Court where they were remanded on bail until September 4.
The men were charged under the Crimes Act 1961 for allegedly arranging by deception the entry of 18 Indian nationals into New Zealand. People-trafficking is punishable under the Crimes Act with imprisonment for up to 20 years, a fine of $500,000, or both.
It was the first time the charges had been laid in New Zealand, Immigration New Zealand said.
One of the men was also charged, along with a third person arrested in Auckland this morning, under the Immigration Act 1987 in relation to false refugee claims they allegedly organised and lodged for the 18 Indian nationals once they arrived in New Zealand.
The maximum penalty for that is up to seven years' imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $100,000.
The man arrested in Auckland will also appear in Nelson District Court on September 4.
Peter Devoy, Immigration New Zealand's assistant general manager for compliance and border operations, said the prosecution was an extremely significant development.
"It shows how seriously we treat such allegations and the fact this is the first prosecution for people trafficking in New Zealand sends a very strong message that we will thoroughly investigate any other cases," he said.
- By Patrice Dougan of APNZ