A joint investigation by Immigration NZ (INZ) and NZ Police has uncovered a Hawke's Bay human trafficking operation that has been ongoing since the 1990s.
A 64-year-old man who was a "respected member of his community in Samoa" has been arrested and charged with human trafficking and slavery following a "lengthy" investigation.
The man, who is a New Zealand resident, allegedly brought Samoan nationals to do illegal work for him in the horticultural industry on a regular basis for decades. It's alleged he would recruit workers in Samoa with the promise of well-paid jobs in the Hawke's Bay.
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Victims allege they weren't paid for their work, had their passports confiscated and were threatened and physically assaulted.
They say the man also monitored and controlled their movements and restricted who they had contact with.
INZ assistant general manager Peter Devoy says the man's arrest was the culmination of two years of extensive investigating by INZ and NZ Police.
"We are absolutely committed to eliminating people trafficking in New Zealand," he said in a statement.
"[The investigation] reflects how seriously both of our agencies take these types of allegations, and our commitment to combatting Transnational Organised Crimes, including people trafficking."
Detective Inspector Mike Foster from Eastern District Police thanked Samoan authorities for their assistance with the case.
"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."
Anyone who is being made to work in New Zealand under illegal conditions, such as being paid less than minimum wage or having work excessive hours, is urged to contact INZ or the Labour Inspectorate.
They can also call CrimeStoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.