Caulfield woman pleads guilty to illegally running migration agency from home

Caulfield woman pleads guilty to illegally running migration agency from home

A woman has pleaded guilty to illegally running a migration agency from her Caulfield North home.

Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions lawyer Raphael de Vietri told Melbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday that Maria Nani’s offending had struck at the integrity of Australia’s migration system.

Mr de Vietri urged magistrate Peter Mealy to seriously denounce Nani’s behaviour to deter other would-be offenders and maintain public confidence in the administration of the migration system as a whole.

Fairfax Media last week reported that the federal government had issued new licences in the past six months to migration agents previously identified by the Immigration Department as having bribed employers to obtain fake work references for visa applicants.

The department failed to investigate evidence of entrenched migration fraud involving 457 skilled worker visas and some of Australia’s biggest infrastructure and mining projects.

Nani, 56, pleaded guilty to four charges involving giving immigration assistance to 17 people when not a registered migration agent.

She had been a registered migration agent since December 1999 but her registration was cancelled in June 2008 by the Office of Migration Agents Registration Authority, after finding she was not a fit and proper person to be a migration agent. The reason behind this decision was not revealed in court.

Mr de Vietri told the court Nani continued to operate her business, Nani and Associates Migration Services, despite not being registered, until her Caulfield North home was raided in November 2010.

Nani had requested $29,150 in fees from clients while not a registered migration agent, and received $11,620 before her arrest.

Australian Federal Police and Immigration Department officers found a large number of documents at Nani’s home, including client files, invoices and computers.

When later interviewed, Nani claimed to have only assisted clients in providing a checklist of what documents were required by the Immigration Department and helped them to complete forms.

For this service she said she charged a fee of between $750 and $2000.

The court was told Nani accepted she had made the ‘‘terrible, terrible decision’’ to continue helping clients in relation to migration matters despite not being registered.

The professional career of Nani, a mother of four, had been ‘‘absolutely destroyed’’ and she was now in dire financial circumstances.

Mr Mealy decided not to jail Nani but ordered she perform 300 hours of community service work and pay fines totalling $10,000 within three months.

The Age News