"New Zealand has reached a new low" is the message from Immigration New Zealand after a 64-year-old was charged with human trafficking and slavery.
Viliamu Samu appeared in Hastings District Court today on 10 charges of using someone as a slave as well as eight further charges of arranging entry for someone from Samoa into New Zealand through deceiving them.
Interim name suppression lapsed for Samu at 5pm today.
Immigration NZ and the police allege the offending has been happening since the 1990s in Hawke's Bay.
Samu was granted bail and will reappear in the Napier High Court next month.
General manager of Immigration New Zealand (INZ) Peter Devoy says the arrests come after two years of detailed investigation work conducted by INZ and the New Zealand Police.
"This reflects how seriously both of our agencies take these types of allegations, and our commitment to combating Transnational Organised Crimes, including people trafficking," says Mr Devoy.
Allegations made by the victims include not being paid for work completed, having their passports taken and being subjected to physical assaults and threats.
"This is the fourth time we have charged with people trafficking but its a first for the New Zealand Police," says Mr Devoy.
Detective Inspector Mike Foster, Eastern District Police, says they've currently got 10 victims from both Samoa and New Zealand but are unsure how many more victims there are.
They also say their movements were controlled by the man, who restricted where they went and who they met.
The man is a Samoan national and New Zealand resident.
Mr Foster says the people brought in were promised well-paid jobs by Samu.
Information collected during the joint investigation suggests that the man, who was seen as a respected member of his community in Samoa, targeted vulnerable people, who had limited education and literacy,” says Mr Foster
Police and INZ say they’ve received valuable assistance from Samoan authorities during their investigation.
This afternoon Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Government has "no tolerance" for human trafficking.
"We have no tolerance for this kind of business practice not only does it put individuals in a terrible situation themselves but it also undercuts those who are operating legitimately, so there are multiple reasons why we need to take up enforcement," she said.