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Man sentenced for exploiting migrant workers

18 September 2018

An Indian national New Zealand citizen has been convicted for exploiting Indian workers he employed.

Immigration New Zealand says Davinder Singh has been sentenced at the Nelson District Court to nine months' home detention, 200 hours of community service and ordered to pay $150,000 in victim reparation.

Singh, aged 30, has lived in New Zealand for around 13 years. He was convicted of 25 charges of exploiting 12 Indian nationals under the Immigration Act who held work and student visas by paying them less than minimum wage, forcing them to work long hours, refusing to provide time off or issue payslips and exploiting the employee/employer relationship.

Singh was also convicted of 13 charges of aiding and abetting employees to breach conditions of their temporary visas, a charge of providing false or misleading information to an immigration officer and seven charges of obtaining by deception.

Kishan Singh & Son's Ltd, Singh's company, owned Pizza Hut franchises in Gore, Richmond, Blenheim and Nelson. These franchises were on-sold in 2016. Singh also operated two food stores trading as Ekam Food Marts in Nelson and Blenheim.

Singh encouraged employees on student visas to work more than the 20 hours a week their visas allowed, yet failed to pay them for more than 20 hours a week. Many of the Indian migrants on work visas who he employed were only ever paid for 40 hours work a week despite working between 45-60 hours regularly.

In serious breaches of the Holidays Act and Minimum Wage Act, one employee was forced to work seven days a week without sick leave, holiday pay, overtime or days in lieu for public holidays worked. Another employee living in Singh’s home was made to cook and clean for Singh and his family. Another employee was owed almost $65,000 in outstanding pay.

At sentencing Judge Zohrab said Singh had a 'revisionist approach'.

"You seem to have rewritten history, and persuaded yourself that you are the victim, and your parents are victims, you were an accidental offender. I do not accept that for one minute. I appreciate a sentence of home detention, coupled with community work, will be difficult for you - but it might give you some insight as to what unpaid labour is actually like." Judge Zohrab said.

Immigration New Zealand Assistant General Manager Peter Devoy says the sentencing comes after a long period of extensive investigative work by Immigration New Zealand investigators with assistance from Labour Inspectors.

"The systematic and protracted pattern of migrant exploitation by this defendant is abhorrent. This sentence of home detention and community work coupled with the $150,000 in victim reparation should send a strong signal that we will take action against employers who exploit migrants. I hope the victims can take some comfort in this outcome.

"We recognise that migrants are a particularly vulnerable section of the workforce because they are less likely to be aware of their rights and entitlements than New Zealand workers. They can also be reluctant to come forward, particularly where they are in breach of their visa conditions.

However, migrant workers have the same employment rights as all other workers in New Zealand and we treat migrants fairly when they come forward about genuine exploitation. We encourage anyone being forced to work in New Zealand illegally for less than the minimum wage and/or excessive hours to contact Immigration New Zealand or the Labour Inspectorate. People can also contact Crimestoppers anonymously," Peter Devoy says.

Last updated on the 18th September 2018