Company director who underpaid staff is approved as an immigration adviser

A migrant representative says it's appalling a director of an Auckland company fined for underpaying staff has been approved as an immigration adviser.

The Ministry of Innovation and Employment Government agency that gave her a licence promises she'll be monitored and supervised, but the person meant to be supervising her has never met her.

Rhythm Ahuja was fined more than $18,000 last year for underpaying staff at an Indian clothing store she worked at with her brother and mother in Papatoetoe.

Her brother was also fined for using Black Power to intimidate the workers who said they'd been underpaid.

Despite her history, Ms Ahuja has been allowed to become a licenced immigration adviser.

The Union Network of Migrants (UNEMIG) co-ordinator Mandeep Singh Bela says the move is appalling.

"It's absolutely appalling - someone who has been found to be exploiting migrants has now got the licence to represent migrants." 

Newshub contacted Ms Ahuja, she initially told us she never underpaid workers and we had the wrong person.

So, Newshub visited the address of the company where she worked, but the business was no longer in operation and another Indian clothing store had taken over. 

When the owners of the current store were shown a photo of Ms Ahuja to Newshub they said they had never met or seen her.

However a brochure on their counter advertised the services of Ms Ahuja.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment told Newshub she'd been approved as a provisional adviser and that

The Immigration advisers authority takes Licenced Immigration Advisers ethics very seriously and she will be monitored throughout her supervision and continuing professional development. 

"I think this is one of the most bizarre cases I've come across. It raises a lot of concerns about MBIE processes," Mr Bela says.

Newshub spoke to her supervisor and were told even though she's been supervising her for two months, they hadn't actually met in person.

Later this afternoon, Ms Ahuja contacted Newshub saying she lied when she was first contacted because she was scared.

The Government has been cracking down on employers who exploit migrant workers - but it appears in this case they've given Ms Ahuja a chance to start over.


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