A Timaru couple were sentenced on August 6 to 150 hours’ community work for making a false statement under the Citizenship Act 1977.
Teilo Latu (46), seafood worker and Elisa Latu (28), housewife, appeared for sentence in the Timaru District Court having pleaded guilty to making a false statement in order to register their culturally-adopted child as a New Zealand citizen by descent.
The couple were in Samoa in August 2011 and customarily adopted a baby boy from relatives soon after birth. They did not legally adopt the child and brought him to New Zealand informing Immigration New Zealand that he was their son.
Internal Affairs picked up discrepancies in the couples’ assertions that they were the birth parents when checking the information they supplied in support of the citizenship application for their child in January 2014.
In October 2014, they emailed the Department saying that they had culturally adopted the child; they explained that they did not like referring to the child as someone else’s as, after adoption, he was considered theirs and they intended to go through with the adoption legally.
General Manager of Births, Deaths, Marriages and Citizenship, Jeff Montgomery, who initiated the prosecution, welcomed the sentence.
“This sends a clear message that there will be consequences for making false statements. New Zealand citizenship is valuable as it provides a range of privileges. The system relies on the honesty of applicants and the deliberate provision of false information undermines public trust and confidence in our records. Ensuring the integrity of our records is vital for the public who rely on them and for the adopted child who may need to know about their birth parents in the future,” he said.
The maximum penalty for making a false statement under the Citizenship Act 1977 is five years’ imprisonment and/or a fine of $15,000.
An Internal Affairs Department Press Release