The Serious Fraud Office has charged two Hamilton men who are alleged to have taken advantage of Afghan evacuees looking to flee the Taliban, by seeking thousands of dollars in payment for evacuation services that were provided for free by the New Zealand Government.
The defendants, both of whom have interim name suppression, were arrested in Hamilton on Tuesday and appeared in Hamilton District Court on Tuesday afternoon.
The SFO has charged the first defendant with conspiracy to obtain by deception, obtaining by deception, using a forged document, attempting to pervert the course of justice and obstructing an SFO investigation.
The second defendant faces a charge of conspiracy to obtain by deception.
The SFO alleges that the defendants’ offending began in 2021 shortly after the fall of Kabul and withdrawal of US and NATO forces.
Immigration New Zealand and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade established a team to assist with the evacuation of eligible Afghan nationals from Afghanistan, including covering VISA, transport and MIQ costs.
The SFO alleges the first defendant, who had close ties to the Afghan community and was familiar with the evacuation process, conspired with the second defendant to contact eligible people in Afghanistan and offer to organise their travel to New Zealand in exchange for payment.
The SFO alleges that both defendants knew there was no charge for the service yet sought more than $450,000 in total from evacuees trying to flee Afghanistan.
Both defendants have been released on bail and are next scheduled to appear on 13 July.