Thai worked ‘free' on Field houses

A Thai immigrant claims he voluntarily travelled the length of the North Island, and worked after-hours and on Sundays without pay, to finish painting jobs for an MP prosecutors accuse of bribery and corruption.

Phongphat Chaikhunpol - also known as Ded - says he undertook painting work on about five properties owned by Mangere MP Phillip Field after approaching him for immigration assistance in 2003.

In a Manukau District Court depositions hearing yesterday, Mr Chaikhunpol confirmed he had been turned down for a visitor's permit in September 2002, and had been given legal advice to leave New Zealand.

However, on the advice of a Thai-speaking Iraqi named Ali, he decided in 2003 to marry his partner, who had just been granted residency.

Mr Chaikhunpol sought Field's advice on the recommendation of fellow illegal immigrant Phisimai Phothisarn.

A letter from the MP's office recommending he be allowed to remain in the country was issued some two weeks after his wedding day.

Field faces 40 bribery, corruption and obstruction of justice charges after he allegedly allowed several Thai nationals - whom he was helping with immigration issues - to work on his properties for little except the cost of materials.

The offending is alleged to have taken place between November 2002 and October 2005, and the hearing will decide whether Field is to stand trial.

Mr Chaikhunpol - speaking through an interpreter - told the court he had spoken to Field about his immigration problems.

A few weeks later, he got a call to go to a Field-owned property to do some painting, and he said he worked at four Auckland properties and one in Wellington.

For one of the Auckland painting jobs he had worked on Sundays free for about two months.

Though Field had offered to pay for work done, Mr Chaikhunpol had always refused to accept payment, the court heard.

Under cross-examination by Field's lawyer, Paul Davison, QC, Mr Chaikhunpol admitted that his evidence was at odds with an earlier statement to police, in which he said he had first met Field while working at one of his Mangere properties.

When asked by Mr Davison why he had put his signature to an incorrect statement, he said: ‘‘I don't know. It was read back in Thai, and I think I was confused, so I signed.''

The hearing continues next week.

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