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Tongans get criminal records 'wiped'

Saturday 16 Feb 2013 1:16 p.m.

Tongan criminals may have slipped into New Zealand after having their records illegally wiped by local police and there are suggestions the practice may be widespread around the Pacific.

Immigration New Zealand has stepped up its checks on Tongan police certificates and is working with the kingdom's authorities to try and discover if criminals have entered the country, following revelations of the wiping of records between 2005 and 2008.

Tonga's Police Commissioner Grant O'Fee told the Matangi Tonga website police were investigating two high-ranking officers who allegedly ordered convictions be wiped.

"This was a common process where people approached the police for their letter from the police record. Senior police officers had given their authorisations and the subsequent letter was written by someone at the lower level."

At least 33 Tongans gained "so-called clearances" during the period but it was not clear if they wanted to apply for jobs or visas, he said.

He said the practice was banned by his predecessor, Police Commissioner Chris Kelley.

Tonga's Solicitor General is also carrying out an inquiry into the issue.

Immigration NZ Pacific regional manager Alan Barry says people entering New Zealand by not declaring criminal convictions or by providing misleading information could be deported and face a lengthy ban on returning.

Auckland-based Tongan Advisory Council chairman Melino Maka told Radio New Zealand Pacific Islanders were laid back and it wouldn't surprise him if it wasn't happening in other islands.

NZN

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