Tongan woman admits illegally providing immigration advice

A Tongan woman who falsely claimed a client's relative drowned has now been convicted of illegally providing immigration advice.

Maria 'Ilaisaane Valu-Pome'e, a Tongan national, pleaded guilty to 14 charges in the Waitakere District Court on Tuesday.

The Auckland woman agreed to withdraw her application for renewal of her law licence during a 2014 proceeding where she was found guilty of a series of misconduct and negligence charges, after representing a couple who wanted to adopt their 1-year-old niece.

Among other failings, Valu-Pome'e had sought a visa extension from Immigration New Zealand by falsely claiming a close relation of the couple had drowned in the Waikato River.

The New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal in 2014 found while a man had drowned in the river, he was not known to the couple.

It said at the time that her behaviour "would certainly tend to bring the profession into disrepute" and slammed it as "incompetent". 

Valu-Pome'e's licence lapsed in June 2013. She attempted to renew it in August of that year but agreed to withdraw the application while the 2014 tribunal case was taking place. 

However, even after the lapse of her licence in 2013 and the tribunal's decision in 2014, she continued to advise and advertise within the Pacific Island community, prompting an investigation by the Immigration Advisers Authority.

Her charges at Waitakere District Court included two of forging documents, three of providing immigration advice without a licence, three of advertising herself as able to provide such advice, and four of receiving fees for it.

Catherine Albiston, Registrar of the Immigration Adviser's Authority, said further details on her offending would not be disclosed until sentencing. 

Valu-Pome'e will reappear in the Waitakere District Court for sentencing on November 22.

Albiston said the case should serve as a reminder for people in Pacific communities to check their immigration adviser was licensed.

If they were not licensed, they should hold a valid law licence or similar that exempted them from having to hold one.

“People giving New Zealand immigration advice must be licensed by the Immigration Advisers Authority or be exempt," Albiston said.

"We have no tolerance for those who act outside the law."​