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Taito Field tells jury he helped immigrants as friend

By Taito Philip Field.

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, July 15, 2009) - A former MP facing bribery and corruption charges admits he knew a Thai couple staying at his house were illegal immigrants, NZPA reports.

Taito Phillip Field told the High Court jury hearing 35 criminal charges that he helped the Thai couple with their immigration case while they did plastering work on his South Auckland home.

"I did not see that as a bribe in any way. I saw that as perhaps we were being kind to them. Over the three or four weeks that they were staying there for free a friendship developed. It was friends helping friends," Taito said.

Taito says he paid them WST200 f[US$75] or their work.

The court also heard that gifts of money, or koha, were often given to staff at his electorate office but large amounts were then donated to a church.

Earlier, Taito denied throwing Thai tiler Sunan Siriwan out on the street in Samoa after reading an article saying that Siriwan was living in poverty.

The former MP told the court that Siriwan had lied to him during a visit to Samoa in 2006 about engaging a lawyer who had told The New Zealand Herald about his hardship.

He said he told Siriwan he could not see or talk to him while a police investigation was on, but that he did not try to force him and his family out of their accommodation.

Taito said he arrived in Samoa in 2006, a time when a police investigation into the work of Thai tradesmen on his properties had been started.

He said that he was told on the way from the airport of the Herald article quoting lawyer Leuluaiali’i Olinda Woodroffe as saying she was Siriwan’s lawyer and that Siriwan and his family were living in poverty.

Taito said he then met Siriwan and drove to Taito’s Afiamalu property, where Siriwan had carried out some work.

During that journey, he received a phone call from his daughter Dorothy giving him more details about the Herald article.

"I asked Mr. Siriwan and his wife if they had engaged Ms. Woodroffe. Both denied engaging her," Taito said.

"I then said that because of the police investigation, there will be no more work on Afiamalu, and I cannot see you or talk to you while the police investigation is on."

Later, on returning to the house of Taito’s daughter, where Siriwan and his family were living rent-free, he saw the Herald article quoting Woodroffe.

He said he was upset Siriwan lied to her about Woodroffe, and that with a child at an expensive pre-school and earning money from contracts, he believed they were well looked after.

However, he said he did not prohibit them from staying at Dorothy’s as he still felt an obligation to look after them.

He later got a call from Dorothy, saying she wanted him to leave, to which he replied that they could spend the night there and then stay at Afiamalu.

When asked about Siriwan’s evidence that Taito flung them out on the street, he said "that is simply untrue. They were offered to stay at Afiamalu".

Taito denies 12 charges relating to getting Thai nationals to work on his properties in return for immigration assistance.

He also denies 23 charges that he tried to willfully pervert the course of justice in relation to alleged false statements and documents presented to inquiries into Taito’s activities.

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